‘Dead’ ships in Gulf
By SASHA HARRINANAN Monday, December 16 2013
A GROUP of concerned citizens is saying someone in authority needs to, “take responsibility” for the potential ecological nightmare in the Gulf of Paria, where at least one of 12 derelict vessels is now leaking oil and diesel into the surrounding waters.
The call for action came yesterday from Steven Valdez and Jonathan De La Rosa; both members of the Trinidad and Tobago Game Fishing Association (TTGFA), and from Master Scuba Diver, Ricky Rampaul.
Frustrated at the lack of action on the part of various Government agencies which he and the others have previously contacted, Valdez declared “Someone in authority needs to take ownership of this matter (and) remove those 12 derelict vessels before they leak any more oil and diesel into the Gulf of Paria.”
Anchored about a quarter-mile off-shore from Carenage and visible to residents of the high-rise condominium development, The Renaissance at Shorelands, these 12 rusting vessels are unlit at night, posing a serious danger to boaters unaware of their presence or exact location.
In addition to potential collisions at night, De La Rosa expressed serious concern about suspicious activity on and around these derelict vessels.
“We’ve seen people who have absolutely nothing to do with the boats, but they’re there (at) various times of the day and night. You just know that something’s going on there that’s not right. Whether it’s storing drugs, guns, anything, there’s nobody out there to see what goes and what comes from those boats.” De La Rosa also noted that at night, “many times boaters have passed by and seen (pirogues) pulling in, pulling out, taking people onboard and off board.
Who knows what’s going on?
As trivial as it may seem to people, this affects everything — crime, the environment, tourism.” According to persons involved in the local shipping industry, the vessels have been anchored within eye sight of the TT Yacht Club (TTYC) for the past two years.
Stark reminders of a now seemingly ambitious project by a local company, identified as either Trinidad Vina Limited or Austin Vina Limited, depending on whom one speaks to. That company purchased the vessels from New Orleans-based company Tidewater Marine after they had reached the end of their life span and could no longer be used in Brazil’s offshore oil industry.
The plan was to convert the vessels into scrap metal to be sold to China, but according to members of the local shipping industry, it seems the expense of getting the relevant clearances, and the significant cost of renting cranes and welding equipment proved to be too much for the local company.
One fisherman said he had heard that “Trinidad Vina” sold the boats to someone else, but that has yet to be verified. In the meantime, anchored in 20 feet of water, two of the vessels are now partially submerged and another two are visibly listing to one side. One of the sunken vessels is now lying on it starboard side, with oil visibly leaking from the area near its propellers.
Rampaul lamented the on-going damage to local fish stocks and the potential link of this oil spill to health problems of persons who swim or fish in the area.