A massive oil tanker anchored off the shore of Venezuela has been tilting heavily to the side, which has many worried.
According to GCaptain, the FSO Nabarima is “a floating storage and offloading vessel,” anchored in the Gulf of Paria between Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago. It contains an estimated 1.3 million barrels, or about about 55 million gallons, of crude oil.
A video posted on October 17 shows the Nabarima listing heavily to starboard. Gary Aboud, Corporate Secretary of Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS), out of Trinidad and Tobago, believes millions of marine species could be at risk, not to mention the lives of countless humans who live in Venezuela and the Caribbean.
“If this thing flips we will all pay the consequences for decades to come,” Aboud told Reuters. “This should be red alert.”
But the Venezuelan government claims everything is fine. Authorities maintain the ship’s cargo was completely sealed, and that taking on water in the starboard ballast helped crews make necessary repairs to the port side.
According to Reuters, “A crew is currently replacing the vessel’s valves, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The source said the vessel is leaning to one side in order to facilitate the repairs.”
An initial statement issued by the FFOS also claimed the FSO Nabarima appeared in a photo to have been righted after water was pumped out of the ballast tanks, but the group backtracked on that statement after finding evidence that the photo may have been several years old.
“In the photographs taken by ourselves on the 16th of October there is a huge rust spot on the port side of the vessel’s hull , which is not evident on the pictures sent to us by our Venezuelan contact [on October 19],” the update said. “As such, it is our respectful view that the pictures sent to us today were taken at a far earlier date.”
“These allegedly fake photos are misleading and point to a greater risk that the Maduro regime are determined to cover this up and deceive fearful stakeholders on the truth,” FFOS posted to Facebook. “FFOS urgently await our Governments ‘expert’ report and urge the Institute of Marine Affairs, who will be on this excursion to perform a fingerprint analysis on the oil, so that in the event of a spill, we would know whether the oil came from the FSO Nabarima. We also urge our Minister of Foreign Affairs to consider the placement of someone with expertise in ship maintenance and repair onto this team of experts to ensure that a proper understanding of the vessel’s state is obtained and possible permanent solutions are advised.”
The Nabarima is controlled by the Venezuelan state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela and Italy’s Eni. It has been anchored in the Gulf of Paria since early 2019, GCaptain reports, due to trade restrictions put on Venezuelan imports.
“We call on the US Ambassador, his Excellency, Joseph Mondello to confirm whether there will be sanctions imposed on nations that provide humanitarian aid and international environmental emergency assistance to rescue the FSO Nabarima,” the FFOS post continued. “We call on the European Union Ambassador to ensure, as a matter of regional emergency, that the Italian company Enzo Nazionale Idrocarburi who is a minority shareholder in the Nabarima, immediately explain what expertise is available to them and how they propose to secure the vessel and that by necessity, they must acquire independent third party advice and support to facilitate same. Additionally, spill containment equipment must be immediately positioned around the vessel in preparation for the worst.
“PM Rowley, we call on you to act urgently!” the FFOS post continued. “The Caribbean Sea is endangered, and your silence is will not be forgiven. Responsible Government must be proactive and ensure that this imminent environmental catastrophe does not decimate the Caribbean Sea.”
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Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.