I first met Derek Walcott, who died on March 20, in the late 1960s when we both worked as reporters at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Evening News in my native Trinidad.
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US help for La Brea spill
An SOS has been sent to one of the world’s largest oil spill response companies based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to come to T&T to assist with the cleaning-up of a nine-mile area along the La Brea shoreline from Coffee and Carrat Shed beaches and other areas. Officials from Oil Spill Response Ltd are expected to visit La Brea today to begin work.
Energy and Energy Affairs Minister Kevin Ramnarine made the disclosure in an interview with the T&T Guardian after a site visit yesterday with president of state-owned Petroleum Company of T&T (Petrotrin) Khalid Hassanali and Tourism Minister Chandresh Sharma, the MP for the bordering Fyzabad constituency. The oil spill was discovered on Tuesday and a subsequent statement from Petrotrin said families living as far away as Chatham, Point Fortin, had to be evacuated because of the incident.
Up to yesterday, the source of the spill was not known. In a press release issued late yesterday, Ramnarine said additional areas affected were Station Bay, Patience, Granville, Fullerton and Cedros. President general of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union Ancel Roget said Petrotrin must take some responsibility for the mishap. Roget also said his union suspected there was “a massive cover-up by Petrotrin to shield their friends in the lease operatorship arrangement.”
Roget said “silence and a cloud of secrecy are shrouded around the lease operators in the La Brea situation.” Speaking with the T&T Guardian after yesterday’s visit, Ramnarine said the spill was “serious and required urgent attention.” He said the recently-established National Oil Spill Contingency Plan was being triggered to the highest level—Tier 3. He explained that the Tier 3 level was being triggered because external help was required to deal with the problem.
According to Ramnarine, “a spill like the one in La Brea has not occurred in this country in living memory.” Ramnarine said Tier 1 is triggered if the company has resources to handle the spill; Tier 2 would be triggered if national resources were required and Tier 3 is triggered if external assistance is required. He said Petrotrin had a good relationship with Oil Spill Response Ltd, which was previously known as Clean Caribbean Americas.
According to Ramnarine, officials from the US firm were preparing to come to T&T yesterday via a special cargo flight. He said all required equipment were being brought on the flight. The minister said the team would go to the site today. He said his ministry was managing the clean-up exercise in collaboration with Petrotrin.
Head of the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan is permanent secretary in the ministry, Selwyn Lashley. Ramnarine said the deputy head is Mark Rudder, a senior petroleum engineer in the same ministry.
The minister said the incident “was still a great mystery for us at the ministry and at Petrotrin.” He said investigations were continuing to determine the source of the discovery, which he said was a “hydrocarbon spill.” He said: “At this point we don’t want to blame anybody, we have not accused anybody of anything and we don’t want to make this into a political issue.
According to Ramnarine, there were other spills at Petrotrin installations at Pointe-a-Pierre and Rancho Quemado and two at Trinidad Marine Ltd (Trinmar) last week.
• December 17, 2013: A weld leak was discovered on the No. 10 Sea Line at the Petrotrin, Pointe-a-Pierre, Port during fuel oil bunkers loading operations for the barge Marabella.
• Later that same day a gasket on a line at Riser Platform 5 in Trinmar’s Main Field leaked and oil spilled into the sea.
• December 18: Petrotrin received reports of oil at the Coffee Beach/Carrat Shed Beach areas in La Brea, affecting the beach and fishing vessels.
• The National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP) was triggered to the Tier Two Level and an Incident Command Team, comprising the Environmental Management Authority (EMA), the Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs (MEEA), the Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA), the Coast Guard and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), began its assessment of the spill and clean-up activities.
• December 19: An oil leak was discovered in the area of Platform 17 in Petrotrin’s Trinmar Operations East Field.
• December 21: Trinity Oil and Gas reported that several valves on well-site tanks were discovered opened at its Petrotrin WD-2 Lease Operatorship Block in Rancho Quemado.
• The spills that occurred at Pointe-a-Pierre, Riser Platform 5 and Platform 17 in Petrotrin’s Trinmar Operations were successfully contained and the clean-up exercise is continuing. On December 19, clean-up activities at the Port at Pointe-a-Pierre were completed and terminated.
• December 22: the Minister of Energy triggered the NOSCP at the Tier Three Level to bring in overseas resources.
Oil Spill Response Limited Web site says the company provides “resources to respond to oil spills efficiently and effectively on a global basis. Oil Spill Response will continue its pursuit of excellence in providing cost effective oil spill response, training and consultancy services. Oil Spill Response will work towards improving communication, awareness of resources and capabilities, and where appropriate, encourage mutual support among the global population of international tier three oil spill co-operatives.