Franklin Khan

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Energy Minister Franklin Khan says the Maritime Division is unaware of a tilting Venezuelan oil tanker which is purportedly in danger of capsizing near Guiria.

The matter was raised by Secretary of Fishermen and Friends of the Sea Gary Aboud yesterday.

Saying the tanker posed a potential environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Paria, Aboud noted, “Reports from Venezuela and in global media have indicated that a Venezuelan oil tanker in Guiria, containing approximately of 1,300,000 (1.3 M) barrels of crude oil, is presently tilted and at risk of capsizing thus contaminating the Gulf of Paria.”

“Further, it is reported that despite several requests from the Environmental Commission of the National Assembly in Venezuela, no information about this dangerous situation has been provided,” Aboud said.

Providing an article published by Thompson and Reuters International on August 19, 2020, in which the tilting tanker is mentioned, Aboud called on the government to speak to Venezuelan authorities about the problem.

“We share the Gulf of Paria with Venezuela. Several of our local fishing communities have subsisted for decades by fishing in this body of water. Approximately 70 per cent of fish consumed locally is caught in the Gulf of Paria. We are concerned that should this 1.3 million barrels of crude be spilt, the damage caused to our fishery and to our local fishing communities that depend on the Gulf of Paria, will be devastating,” Aboud said.

He called on Khan to contact the Venezuelan Assembly to determine whether there is any truth to these reports.

“If true, discuss and implement measures that can be taken to prevent and mitigate this potentially catastrophic spill; and if necessary, initiate the measures outlined in the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP) to prepare for this potentially disastrous spill,” Aboud said.

He added, “We hope in these trying times of pandemic and economic uncertainty our Government does not forget its commitment stated in Part 1.05 of the National Environmental Policy (NEP) (2018) to the prevention of environmental catastrophes, irrespective of transboundary harm. We hope that clarity can be brought to this urgent situation and that if necessary, our Government will act swiftly and avert what could be a regional environmental catastrophe.”

Aboud said oil is deadly since it bio-accumulates and bio-magnifies in our marine food chain.

“Every drop of hydrocarbon has an everlasting impact on our fishery. We depend on you to act urgently,” he told Minister Khan.

But when contacted via Whatsapp, Khan asked what was the exact location of the tanker. He said, “The Maritime decision (sic) knows nothing about this.”