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‘Strong evidence’ of sabotage

By Clint Chan Tack Friday, January 3 2014

click on pic to zoom in
OIL SPILL UPDATE: Petrotrin Chairman, Lindsay Gillette, centre, speaks to the media at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair yesterday. He was ...
OIL SPILL UPDATE: Petrotrin Chairman, Lindsay Gillette, centre, speaks to the media at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair yesterday. He was ...

PETROTRIN chairman, Lindsay Gillette, yesterday declared there was “strong evidence” which suggests that two of the 11 oil spills which occurred over the last two weeks were acts of sabotage.

However, he said the exact causes of all these spills remain unclear, and under investigation. With the estimated cost of cleaning-up these spills at $8 million and rising, Gillette said Petrotrin is “going to spend whatever is required” to clean-up the spills, and is hoping to complete all of this work by the end of February.

Gillette made the comment at a news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair, accompanied by other Petrotrin officials, after they briefed a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) chaired by Acting Prime Minister Errol McLeod.

Reminding reporters the 11 oil spills were “highly unusual,” Gillette said four were directly related to the State oil company. Four were related to Trinity Exploration, one to Neal and Massy Energy Services, two from an oil sheen in the Gulf of Paria, for which no source has been identified, and the one in La Brea.

“While the sources of these incidents have not yet been determined, strong evidence suggests direct and wilful acts of sabotage,” he said. Indicating there were two such cases, Gillette said the first was at Rancho Quemado, operated by Trinity, where “two bull plugs were deliberately removed from tanks” and specialised tools were required to do that. The second was at Petrotrin’s Riser Five platform where “a line was deliberately tampered with.”

While insisting there was no way these two incidents were acts of negligence, and saying the matter was being investigated by the police, Gillette could not say what was the cause of the other three oil spills attributed to Petrotrin. “We are also continuing our investigations,” he said.

Insisting that Petrotrin’s facilities are regularly inspected and the company is operated on international standards, Gillette said Petrotrin was working very closely with the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) to determine the source of these spills, and has been conducting its own internal investigations.

Describing the spills as “a blow to the company,” Gillette rejected a call by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley for an “urgent independent technical enquiry” into the spills. “That’s his view. Petrotrin has a lot of professional people in the company, and people who are well trained, well organised to do these things,” he said.

Petrotrin president, Khalid Hassanali, said the company was not speculating as to who, or what caused the spills.” The cost to clean-up the spills so far is at least $8 million and “ 1,100 to 1,200 barrels of oil” have been collected so far.

Claiming the clean-up works were hampered by protest action by some La Brea residents, Hassanali said the company will be doubling the employment of residents in the clean-up operations. He said wages for these persons increased in the last two weeks from $30 to $50 per hour. Hassanali said compensation would be paid to fishermen affected by the spill, but he could not say the amount, or when it would be paid.

Petrotrin exploration and production manager, Jamaluddin Khan, said the spills and resulting clean-up operations have not stopped Petrotrin from conducting seismic surveys in the Gulf of Paria. Khan said a seismic vessel sailed from Chaguaramas earlier this week and “the survey has in fact started.” Company HSE manager, Sham Dyal, said the damage to the environment was minimal..

Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) secretary, Gary Aboud, said: “We don’t buy into the sabotage talk.” Insisting that negligence and incompetence are the cause of the spills, Aboud also expressed concern that Petrotrin was proceeding with the seismic surveys, saying FFOS had written to the company on December 30 last, to discuss the “impending seismic bombing” to be carried out in the same area.

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