Nigerian Lawyer says He Represents Barge in Tobago Oil Spill

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By Prior Beharry

MINISTER of Energy Stuart Young says a Nigerian lawyer has contacted the Maritime Services Division (MSD) claiming to represent the owners of the tug and barge involved in the Tobago oil spill in February.

The MSD of the Ministry of Works and Transport was scrutinising the validity of the claim with the Nigerian government, he said.

Young was answering a question in the Lower House on Monday.

The oil spill was discovered more than three months ago off the southeast coast off Tobago.

Young said, “The oil spill impacts to the Atlantic shoreline of the island of Tobago and to the marine environment was caused by a non-propelled tank barge strongly suspected to be the ‘Gulfstream’.  The barge Gulfstream was classed with the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) until 31 December 2018 but after that date no further registration details were available. It was also noted that it appeared that the vessel had not been reclassed or registered for a number of years.

“The tug involved in the incident has been identified as the ‘Solo Creed. The Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard has been working in close collaboration with the Guyana Coast Guard, the Caribbean Community Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (CARICOM IMPACS) to assist in identifying the owner of the Solo Creed. Additionally the Director of the Maritime Services Division (MSD) has been using that division’s resources and relationships, including, but not limited to reaching out to various similar divisions in CARICOM, Panama and Africa as well as IR Consilium to identify the vessel(s) and any owners of the vessel(s) involved in and/ or responsible for the oil spill in Tobago.

“In this regard, official correspondence was dispatched to Panama and Tanzania seeking any relevant information regarding the two vessels. 

“The Maritime Services Division (MSD) of the Ministry of Works and Transport was also contacted by a Nigerian lawyer representing the purported owner of the tug and barge, MSD are currently scrutinizing the validity of the claims having initiated inquiries to the Nigerian Government. However, at this time, there is reasonable suspicion related to this particular claim and correspondence.

“Despite great efforts, to date, all of these searches have failed to locate the tug Solo Creed, which has not re-activated its Automatic Identification System (AIS) since the date of the incident seemingly having fled the scene, nor led to the discovery of any definitive information regarding the ownership of the barge Gulfstream at the time of the incident. The MSD has also written to the International Marine Organization (IMO) for the provision of a consultant to assist with the investigation. They indicated that they are actively engaged in the process of identifying one.

“It is the intention of the Trinidad and Tobago Government to take legal action against the owner of the barge Gulfstream and/or the owner of the tug Solo Creed under the applicable Trinidad and Tobago legislation.”

Young said he led a delegation to the Oil Pollution Compensation Fund (IOPC) which has agreed to pay for the oil spill damage and clean up which he has estimated to cost up to US$20 million.

He said the current estimate of the spill was about US$12 million.

Young said he led a delegation to the Oil Pollution Compensation Fund (IOPC) which has agreed to pay for the oil spill damage and clean up which he has estimated to cost up to US$20 million.

 Young said, “At a recent meeting at the International Oil and Pollution Compensation Fund in London when Trinidad and Tobago made submissions to this body and its members it became apparent that unfortunately there is a global network of rouge vessels attempting to operate under the law and international obligations similar to how the Solo Creed and Gulfstream and its owner(s) operated where it is very difficult to ascertain those legally responsible for the vessels.

“The Government continues to use its relationships and resources including, an independent satellite provider to attempt to ascertain the owner(s) of these vessels.”

Recently, Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said 50,000 barrels of hydrocarbons have been removed from the vessel and another 35,000 is estimated to still be onboard.

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One thought on “Nigerian Lawyer says He Represents Barge in Tobago Oil Spill

  1. Firstly, minister Stuart Young should have gotten the validity of the lawyer before making the statement. Secondly, he’s not sure if the oil spill was from the barge Gulf Stream. And thirdly; if it was from the Gulf Stream; why the owners cannot be found, charged and pay fines.

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