Capsized cargo ship results in oil spill in Tobago

An as-yet unidentified vessel has capsized off Trinidad & Tobago and is causing an oil spill on the island of Tobago. Oil has come ashore at the southwestern end of the island. There are warnings that it may continue to spread.

The Trinidad & Tobago Coast Guard are investigating the vessel. The government has raised the classification of the event to that of a Tier II disaster. The Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), Environmental Management Authority, and other government agencies are coordinating in the effort. There was speculation that it would be elevated to a Tier III disaster before the weekend.

On Wednesday February 7th the authorities received reports of a capsized vessel. There had been no distress call. A subsequent search has failed to find any crew, either on board or having escaped from the sinking ship.

However, oil from the vessel had escaped the ship, and it quickly began to reach the Tobago shoreline.

Divers were sent to examine and identify the vessel. They reported back a visual identity as Gulfstream, but as yet had been unable to identify any registration information. Efforts to get to a possible registration number on the stern were being blocked by the ongoing oil leak. However, a name was seen, but unfortunately this name did not correspond with international ship registries.

The vessel’s length was estimated at 100 metres and it was believed to be carrying lumber and sand. The divers reported that there appeared also to be damage to the nearby reef. Portions of the vessel’s superstructure had detached and could lie in a debris field.

No signs of life were detected aboard the vessel, neither were there any bodies to be seen. Further searches of the debris were planned.

The trail of damage suggested that the ship drifted into the cove from the south and may have dragged along the bottom before coming to rest. There was speculation that the vessel might have been abandoned a couple of days earlier and left to drift.