AN inspection team from Trinidad and Tobago was yesterday able to board the FSO Nabarima in Venezuelan waters.

The team was also expected to submit to Energy Minister Franklin Khan, by evening, a report on whether the oil storage tanker is threatening to spill over one million barrels of crude into the Gulf of Paria.

Khan and Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne yesterday confirmed that T&T had received permission from the Venezuelan government “for the in-flight and landing of our inspection team and access to the Nabarima”, which has been reported as near-derelict and dangerously close to sinking.

The Nabarima has been moored in the Corocoro field since 2019 with a cargo of some 1.4 million barrels of oil. International media have reported that the vessel was taking in water and visibly sinking, while local environmental group, Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS), has since August agitated for action by the T&T Government.

Browne told the Express the team’s first-hand information was essential in determining the way forward and Government remains committed to the matter.

He noted an inspection visit was scheduled for September 28 and the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries had assembled a team of experts in preparation “but Venezuela withheld authorisation for access by our inspection team”.

“They subsequently indicated that access would only be authorised on 20th October or thereafter,” Browne advised.

He said Government finally received “formal permission from Venezuela for the in-flight and landing of our inspection team and access to the Nabarima”.

“The team proceeded on the morning of Tuesday 20th October and are conducting a series of assessments and observations on the vessel as directed by our Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries. A report will be presented to Minister Khan which will be utilised to determine our next steps,” Browne said via WhatsApp.

Browne had previously noted the vessel falls within a Petrosucre arrangement that is a joint-venture between Venezuela’s Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) and Italian company Eni, which owns some of the vessel’s contents.

Eni was reported to be in discussions to take on a role in emptying the vessel of its oil cargo but Browne had also acknowledged that much of what was taking place was outside the control of the T&T Government.

Khan also indicated yesterday an official visit was underway and that the team was on board the vessel up to 3 p.m.

Where we have the power 

Giving the assurance that “the Government of Trinidad and Tobago remains deeply concerned about any potential threat to our environment posed by the FSO Nabarima”, Browne also stated: “We have used all diplomatic channels to convey these concerns to the government of Venezuela in a focused and consistent manner. Notwithstanding attempts by Venezuela to assure that a leak on the vessel had been repaired, the Government requested access to the vessel to properly assess its condition.”

He further stated “the strong concern and interest of the people of Trinidad and Tobago to the Nabarima situation have helped to encourage the Government to persist in its determined actions on this matter”.

The Foreign Affairs Minister added: “While it must be recognised that the vessel in question belongs to Venezuela and is located in Venezuelan waters, we would continue at the level of the Government to intervene as far as we have legal power and authority so to do.”

Browne disclosed the Nabarima matter has been the subject of seven Diplomatic Notes from T&T to Caracas, “each of which have conveyed the serious concerns of our population and all of which have been aimed at clarifying the actual condition of the vessel and gaining access to the Nabarima by the experts that have been mobilised by the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries”.

Call for urgent action 

FFOS had called on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to press the Venezuelan government for the opportunity to visit the Nabarima and acquire first-hand information on the real-time condition of the small, double-hull VLCC built in 2005. The Nabarima and other vessels were left suspended on the water due to United States sanctions on Venezuelan fuel.

FFOS has warned that the volume of the Nabarima’s cargo would exceed the 1989’s Exxon Valdez spill into Alaska’s Prince William Sound, the devastation of which is still being felt today. Spilled crude from the Nabarima would easily reach Trinidad south-western coast in amounts that would all but wipe out marine and community life in those areas, the group has warned.

The organisation had also written to US Ambassador Joseph Mondello asking that the US put pressure on the T&T Government to act.

In a statement last week, Mondello backed the call for urgent action and clarified that US sanctions would not apply where action had to be taken against an ecological disaster of the proportion being threatened by the Nabarima.

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ALL 250 people detained early yesterday morning at a “zesser party” in Caroni will be charged.

This is the assurance of Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith.

He told the Express he had given directives that everyone held at the event be charged under Paragraph 4(d) of the Public Heath coronavirus legislation.

While some are expected to appear before a Chaguanas magistrate today for the offence, others will face charges via summons as names and addresses of everyone who attended the event were obtained by police.

AYANNA PAUL, a 30-year-old unemployed mother of seven, wants to help her children to find a future of hope, even in poverty.

But Paul and her partner cannot afford this on only his earnings as a market vendor.

Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee, Chief Whip for the United National Congress (UNC), is maintaining his position that the statistics do not support the continuation of the anti-gang legislation.

Lee was speaking during a news conference at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition, at Charles Street, Port of Spain.

It’s a lie! It’s a damn lie!

This is how Vasant Bharath responded to accusations by incumbent United National Congress (UNC) political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar that he had campaigned for the People’s National Movement in the lead-up to the August 10 general election.

Bharath, who is Persad-Bissessar’s sole competitor for leadership of the party in the UNC’s December 6 internal election, held a news conference yesterday at his campaign headquarters in San Juan, where he addressed the issue.

More than 20 Trinidadian contract workers at farms in Canada say they have been neglected by the Government.

Many left the country in early January prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic to undertake farming positions contracted through the Ministry of Labour and are still awaiting exemptions to return home.