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Roget calls for independent inquiry into petrotrin

By Richardson Dhalai Saturday, August 2 2014

click on pic to zoom in
CLEANUP: Workers of Tiger Tank use special equipment on Thursday to clean up oil that leaked into the Guaracara River, Pointe-a-Pierre from the nearby...
CLEANUP: Workers of Tiger Tank use special equipment on Thursday to clean up oil that leaked into the Guaracara River, Pointe-a-Pierre from the nearby...

EVEN as acting Minister of Energy announced on Thursday that an audit on the assets and infrastructure of State-owned oil company, Petrotrin is to be carried out, OWTU President General Ancel Roget, is demanding an independent public inquiry into the operations of the company. He made the call in light of a second major spill of the company’s petroleum products within a seven- month period.

On December 17 last year approximately 7,000 barrels of oil was spilled into the Gulf of Paria following the rupture of a sea line. Then, on July 29, a ruptured storage tank resulted in the spillage of approximately 17,844 barrels of slop oil, (a combination of unused gasoline, fuel oils and waste materials) with several thousands barrels of oil finding its way into the Guaracara River.

The spill resulted in the closure of a popular Marabella shopping plaza while residents along the river’s banks complained about experiencing various degrees of nausea and other illnesses due to the oil spill. Addressing a news conference at OWTU’s Paramount Building headquarters, Circular Road, San Fernando yesterday, Roget alleged that the company was not only aware of the frailties at tank MP 6, but was engaged in a massive coverup of an inspection report done in 2010 which revealed that a seepage of oil had been observed on the eastern end of the tank.

“This issue of another major disaster at Petrotrin is another situation that the management at Petrotrin is attempting to cover up. They are trying to trivialise what occurred on the morning of the 29th of July,” Roget said, adding, “If we did not find the root cause and take corrective action, this issue will reoccur. They are, as we speak, cooking the books to come out with a particular type of PR spin that would suggest they are not responsible and that the disaster could not have been prevented.

“There can be nothing further from the truth, this could have been prevented,’ Roget said. “As we speak we are at great risk of having another disaster take place simply because nobody listens and nobody at the level of the management, nobody at the level of the board, not even the Prime Minister and her office and the Office of the President is taking action on what is a very crucial situation in one of our significant and very important state enterprises,’ he said.

“So this is something we expected, this is something that we predicted but there seems to be a massive coverup with the management because they are not pro active, because they are not doing the necessary predictive and preventative maintenance and as a result of their failings we continue to have disaster after disaster,’ he added.

He then produced several documents, which he said had been “left in the union’s mailbox” between July 30 and August 1, which noted that an inspection company had performed a “cursory inspection” or visual inspection of the tank on May 21, 2010 in which “product seepage” was observed along the eastern end of the tank.

“The last time this tank was properly inspected, was an internal inspection, 19.3.1991. And the visual inspection in 2010 said there was minor seepage, now no corrective action was taken from 2010 to Tuesday 29, July 2014,” he said, adding,

‘So what was minor, certainly over a period of four years would have developed intro something major. No action taken by the management and as a result of the non-action, we are with that disaster today,’ he said, and noted that Petrotrin’s general instructions for inspections of low pressure storage tanks recommended that slop tanks were “supposed to have a visual inspection every year, ultrasonic every year and full internal inspection every two years.”

“The disaster and the risk is imminent because we continue to be at risk at Pointe a Pierre, as we speak there can be another major oil spill and disaster and we call for an independent public inquiry into the entire operations of the Petroleum Company of Trinidad and Tobago,” Roget said to cheers and applause of union members who were also present at the media briefing. Roget then warned that should their calls be ignored, workers may refrain from venturing onto a compound which they deem to be unsafe and unhealthy saying ‘no injunction’ would then be able to force the workers to return to the job site.

“We are coming to the point where we are so fearful and where workers are of such high levels of anxiety, we are very well coming close to the point where we would have absolutely no choice but to move ourselves from harms way until a proper investigation is done in the entire operations of Petrotrin,” Roget said. “And no injunction, no injunction from the Court or from a Minister of Labour who would want to put workers back in harms way, no injunction would get us back in harms way in an environment where clearly the evidence continues to show on a daily basis is an unsafe and unhealthy environment,” he added.

“We will continue to have disaster after disaster if you have the same minister, the same board and the same management in Petrotrin with the same approach,” he said, adding, “the top management of Petrotrin must leave immediately.” Asked whether an audit, as described by Tewarie would not also constitute an inquiry and assess the company’s infrastructure, he said an audit would not get at the root problem plaguing the company.

See Page 10A

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