Trinidad and Tobago awaits compensation for oil spill

May 25, 2024  -Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley of Trinidad and Tobago has announced that the country anticipates receiving a substantial sum as compensation for the ongoing clean-up efforts following an oil spill in Tobago.

The spill, first discovered on February 7 off Tobago’s Atlantic Coast, has inflicted damage on the island’s mangroves and posed threats to its vital tourism and fishing sectors.

Root cause and international aid

During the “Conversations with the Prime Minister” public program, Rowley attributed the spill to undisclosed actors who sought anonymity for their involvement in the incident.

He emphasized the importance of international cooperation in such crises, noting the existence of an international body dedicated to assisting countries affected by oil spills or similar disasters.

While Rowley refrained from explicitly naming the international agency, Energy and Energy Industries Minister Stuart Young previously disclosed that Trinidad and Tobago had presented its case to the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund (IOPCF) based in the United Kingdom.

The compensation sought ranged from US$14 million to US$20 million, with indications of the country’s eligibility for assistance.

Progress and negotiations

Rowley informed the public that discussions with the agency have progressed, with representatives visiting Trinidad and Tobago recently.

Cabinet approval has been granted for a Trinidad and Tobago official to continue negotiations at the agency’s headquarters.

Initial claims for compensation amounted to an estimated US$30 million, later revised to approximately US$23 million pending the final assessment of expenses incurred.

The Prime Minister stressed the significance of the anticipated compensation, which will primarily serve to reimburse various agencies and the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) for their involvement in the clean-up operations.

Detailed expenses will be presented to the agency for apportionment, ensuring a fair distribution of funds.

Ongoing investigations

Trinidad and Tobago has yet to identify definitively the vessel or owners responsible for the oil spill, which also encroached upon the Caribbean Sea, posing threats to neighboring countries such as Venezuela and the Dutch island of Bonaire.

In a statement, the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries said that the government remains committed to employing all available resources to uncover and hold accountable those responsible for the environmental disaster in Tobago.

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