Capsized Barge Off Tobago Stops Spilling Fuel Oil

Gulfstream oil spill
Gulfstream spills oil off Tobago, February 2024 (TEMA)

Published Mar 7, 2024 8:38 PM by The Maritime Executive

The leak from the mysterious fuel oil barge that capsized off the coast of Tobago last month has stopped, according to the Trinidadian government. 

For the past month, the barge has been leaking fuel oil into the water off the southern end of Tobago, sending a sheen westwards as far as Bonaire. 

The leak has stopped now, according to local authorities - but not because of human intervention. The response management team in Tobago believes that the oil-laden tanks of the barge are now filled with seawater above the locations of the leak points, blocking further releases of petroleum. 

A government-sponsored salvage effort is set to begin soon, and the authorities have made arrangements with salvors and pollution-response providers. 

The aging barge's ownership appears to trace back to a firm in Panama. The open-source intelligence experts at Bellingcat have identified the vessel as a formerly American-owned ATB barge, Gulfstream, which was renamed and sold into South American service. Bellingcat and TankerTrackers.com spotted the Gulfstream at a Venezuelan oil-transfer area in January using satellite imagery. The tug - ID'd by Trinidad as the Tanzanian-flagged Solo Creed - has not been seen on AIS since late January and appears to have disappeared.