Fuel Spill off Trinidad and Tobago is "Not Under Control"

Image courtesy TEMA

Published Feb 11, 2024 10:42 PM by The Maritime Executive

When a mysterious "ghost ship" capsized off Trinidad and Tobago last week, it spilled fuel oil into the water, and the environmental damage continues to mount. In an update Sunday, Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Keith Rowley told reporters that "right now the situation is not under control," even as volunteers and emergency response workers descended on beaches to attempt to remediate the damage. 

Trinidad's government has classified the spill as a "Tier II" national disaster, and may upgrade it into its first-ever "Tier III" event. The designation would mean calling for international help with mitigating the spill. On Sunday, Prime Minister Keith Rowley and Chief Secretary Farley Augustine visited the scene with officials in order to assess the damage and plan next steps. 

Last Wednesday, authorities in Trinidad received reports that a ship had partially capsized just off the southwestern end of Tobago, near the Cove Eco Industrial Park. There was no distress call, no crew on board and no sign that anyone had abandoned ship.

The vessel - named Gulfstream - does not appear in international shipping databases as an active ship. A vessel of that name was reported as out of service / broken up in 2014. 

Trinidadian officials believe that the Gulfstream was in active service and was transporting a cargo of sand and lumber, according to Voice of America. They have not been able to locate further information about the ship.

The timing of the spill is unfortunate for Trinidad & Tobago, which is currently holding its annual carnival celebration. This yearly event draws large numbers of tourists, generating revenue for the local economy. So far, the oil has damaged about eight miles of beachfront and a coral reef, but could spread further if the release of fuel oil continues.