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8 suspended

By Cecily Asson and Sasha Harrinanan Tuesday, January 7 2014

Eight employees from the Refining and Marketing Group of the Petrotrin Refinery in Pointe-a- Pierre were suspended yesterday as investigations continue into the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Paria that has been wreaking havoc not only on plant and marine life but also on residents living in affected areas along the south western coastline.

And more employees could face disciplinary action over what has been described as a “Petrotrin problem” and a “national crisis,” according to manager, corporate communications Gillian Friday and Errol Baldeo, senior manager, marketing and trading.

The suspensions were announced during a media conference at the Petrotrin Learning Resource Centre, Pointe-a-Pierre yesterday.

The briefing was called to give an update on the oil spill clean-up which continues daily in areas along the south western peninsula including Coffee Beach, Carrat Shed Beach, Station Beach and Point Sable in La Brea and Otaheite.

Baldeo told journalists those suspended were involved in the operation of the first oil spill which occurred on December 17 at the Pointe-a-Pierre jetty.

“The jetty personnel were involved in preparing the lines from the shore, the tanker, the line work, the pump, that entire chain (operation is) being looked at. We are conducting an investigative process and the first step before we take disciplinary action is to have sufficient investigation done,” Baldeo said.

Baldeo added that action “may be taken in suspending persons who may have been on duty at that point in time so that there is no chance that the information may be interfered with.”

Friday later confirmed the suspended employees are attached to the Port and Marine Branch at Pointe-a-Pierre and were the ones who “load and receive fuel onto the Marabella port.”

“They were suspended today (yesterday) pending the outcome of investigations,” Friday said at the press conference.

Saying that the last three weeks have been difficult for Petrotrin, Friday said the company has managed to clean up 10 of the 13 affected beaches.

In response, president general of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union, Ancel Roget, said the suspension of the eight was “an attempt by the company’s management to cast blame on the lower level employees”.

He said senior managers should also be suspended, saying lower level employees were not responsible for implementing budgets that would cause major maintenance works to be carried out on aging infrastructure.

Meanwhile, Acting Finance Minister Vasant Bharath yesterday said he did not expect the oil spills to have “an impact on the economy per se.”

“I don’t believe it’s reached to that point where there is significant concern by investors with regard to the amount of oil that’s been spilt.

Clearly everyone is looking on to understand how we deal with the situation and how quickly we can resolve it, and also I suspect, looking on to see what the cause of it is and how quickly we can identify it and ensure it doesn’t happen again,” Bharath told reporters after the signing of an Memorandum of Understanding for the Exchange of Information and Cooperation Consultation between the Central Bank and the Securities and Exchange Commission at Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain.

Expressing regret about the financial and environmental impact of the oil spills on fisherfolk and residents in affected areas, Bharath said, “clearly we have a lot of work ahead of us, both in terms of ascertaining the cause of it and ensuring it doesn’t happen again.”

Central Bank Governor, Jwala Rambarran yesterday said it was “too early to tell” if the oil spills will have an impact on the economy.

Questioned about Petrotrin’s potential revenue losses, Rambarran reiterated it was “too early” to make a definitive assessment of the impact on the State-owned company, “and by extension on overall output in the energy sector for the first quarter (of 2014).”

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