What is the truth?
This is the question asked by corporate secretary of Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) Gary Aboud as he noted that in October this year Energy Minister Franklin Khan claimed that oil from the Nabarima tanker was being removed but international reports state that the process only began in December. In August 2020 the environmental activist group raised an alarm that the tanker was rusted and taking on water, with visible listing to starboard.
Bloomberg reported on December 16 Venezuela’s national oil company started unloading more than 1 million barrels of oil from the tanker that had sparked fears of a major environmental disaster in the Caribbean.
According to the report, Venezuela’s State oil company PDVSA began transferring oil from the FSO Nabarima on December 15 “according to two people with knowledge of the situation, who declined to be identified discussing internal matters”.
Bloomberg stated the cargo is being unloaded onto a barge before being transported to a smaller crude tanker.
The operation, it stated, will take up to two months, with the barge removing 30,000 barrels a day.
The report noted that images of the ship tilting to one side in the Gulf of Paria between Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago in October sparked an international outcry and calls for Caracas to take immediate action.
Bloomberg stated that the original purpose of the Nabarima was to load heavy oil from an offshore field operated by Petrosucre, a joint venture between PDVSA and Italy’s Eni SpA.
However, the floating storage unit has been in limbo since the beginning of 2019 after the US targeted Venezuela’s oil industry.
Production was halted soon after and no customers have been willing to take its cargo for fear of breaching sanctions.
The Italian company said at the end of October that it had been informed by US authorities that it could unload oil from the FSO Nabarima without running afoul of sanctions.
At the time, Eni said it would start removing the oil “upon approval of its plan by PDVSA”.
Technical issues had previously delayed the rescue effort.
Speaking to the Express by phone yesterday Aboud said when the Trinidad and Tobago paid a visit to the vessel in October Khan had said oil was in the process of being removed.
“So if Bloomberg and Reuters two and a half months later are stating that the oil is about to begin being removed then did our Government tell us the truth or did the Venezuelan government tell the truth to our Government?” he said.
He said if there were any issues that caused delays the population should have been informed as to what is happening.
Aboud added that the Icaro vessel which the oil is being off loaded onto is substantially smaller than the Nabarima so the logistics as to how they going to offload 1.4 million barrels into a vessel that can only take 400,000 is curious.
He said when the T&T Government team visited the vessel and they are unable to take any photographs to show that the vessel was not lifting.
He said the layman’s interpretation is that the vessel is in trouble.
Aboud said the appropriate thing to do was to provide evidence to show that the vessel was not tilting as Energy Minister Franklin Khan claimed.
He said the Fishermen group was able to provide video footage to show the vessel.
“We are very concerned that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago would make pronouncement that the oil was in the process of being removed when Bloomberg and Reuters in December said it is just about to begin.
“Information and transparency is good but not forthcoming,” he said.
“I don’t have any brief for any political party, Fishermen and Friends of the Sea is an apolitical entity.
“I don’t mean any offence to Dr Rowley or his family or his Cabinet but our Government has not been responsible in managing volatile assets and so we have suffered from poor maintenance and a string of environmental disasters that are a disgrace to our flag… it’s an insult to national pride that we can boast 477 oil spills according to the managing director of the EMA in four years and those are reported oil spills,” he added.