ENERGY Minister Franklin Khan last night said TT and its marine environment have nothing to fear from Venezuelan-registered oil tanker FSO Nabarima. He said the vessel, which was thought to be sinking, is actually stable.
He disclosed the findings of a visit by a team of experts who on Tuesday boarded the vessel to assess if there were any threat to the marine environment after reports that the ship was tilting to one side and/or was sinking.
The ship stores approximately 1.3 million barrels of oil and an oil spill from it it could threaten TT, Venezuela and other territories in range of the Gulf of Paria, where it is anchored in Venezuelan waters.
Khan told Newsday on Wednesday night that the assessment team reported on the FSO Nabarima:
* It is upright and stable and there was no visible tilt and imminent risk of tilting or sinking; there was no visible water egress. He said Venezuelan state oil company PdVSA confirmed that in the engine room, which was flooded, there was no mixing of bilge water, suggesting the double hulls are intact and pose minimal risk for an oil spill at this time.
* Major maintenance is ongoing, with pumps and motors being repaired and replaced as needed; and the current maintenance programme on the ship is satisfactory.
Khan explained that the ships that were on standby near the Nabarima were actually smaller cargo ships that transported crude from it and since US sanctions were imposed, there has been a backlog.
“The FSO Nabarima produces crude from a field called Corocoro, which is a joint venture between PdVsa and ENI-Italia (an Italian company). Normally when the vessel is filled, a tanker will come alongside it and do a ship-to-ship transfer. Since the US sanctions, that process cannot take place. So this vessel has been filled for about nine months,” Khan told Newsday.
“Based on concerns of environmental risk, Venezuela has started to offload the vessel. However, the cargo boat it is being placed into is very small, holding about 300,000 barrels. It is a long and tedious process using these smaller vessels.
“Our team has recommended a larger ship be used to do the ship-to-ship transfer, which could be done in about two to three loads. This should reduce any environmental threat.”
He added that the team recommended another visit within a month, but TT will once again need to seek permission from the Venezuelan government as the vessel is anchored in that country’s waters. Khan said a date has not been set and the ministry will continue to monitor the situation.
The team which visited the FSO Nabarima comprised a petroleum engineer from the Ministry of Energy, a Coast Guard officer who is a mechanical engineer and an expert in ships from the Maritime Services Division.
Khan said, “Their findings are very positive news. I know the nation was concerned and anxious as to whether there would be a major environmental disaster in the Gulf of Paria and, based on current trajectories, would have impacted significantly on the west coast of Trinidad. That risk is not an imminent risk at this point in time.”
He said more on the FSO Nabarima will be revealed on Thursday.
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