FSO Nabarima: the oil tanker in distress

International concern of a stranded oil tanker has grown after months of talk about the risk of spilling.

The Venezuelan oil tanker FSO Nabarima has caused an uprise of environmentalists, activists and those concerned for the marine environment. A social media campaign set out by the non-profit organisation Fishermen and Friends of the sea urged a call for action upon inspecting the ship for themselves.

“We are here today, October 16th. You can see the tilt on the vessel. That is looking more like a 25-degree tilt. It looks like its held together by the anchor chains and thats why its not flipping. But we do not know how strong the chains are, we know that the vessel is full of crude oil, we know that nothing has been done.” – reports FFOS secretary, Gary Aboud.

The video released by FFSO shows a huge tanker holding 60,000,000 gallons of crude, angled on its side. A spill from a tanker this size would inflict devastating consequences on the marine ecosystems and consequently the livelihoods of many people.“If this flips we will be paying the consequences for decades to come” claimed Aboud.


What’s the threat?

Oil spills can be fatal to marine life. It coats marine mammals such as birds and seals destroying their ability to repel water and retain heat. During the 2010 deepwater horizon oil spill, as many as 102,ooo birds died and 140o whales and dolphins were found stranded. The spill affected species far beyond the origin of the tanker.

Oils spills also have effects on fish and coral reef communities. The NSO say “adult fish may experience reduced growth, enlarged livers, changes in heart and respiration rates, fin erosion, and reproduction impairment. Fish eggs and larvae can be especially sensitive to lethal and sublethal impacts. Even when lethal impacts are not observed, oil can make fish and shellfish unsafe for humans to eat…”

The response so far…

Trinidad, trying to assess the damage on Nabarima, had to wait for Caracas to permit teams to cross the maritime border. The inspection scheduled for end of September was held back to 20 October. After the inspection, the Energy minister Franklin Khan  reported that the Nabarima “is upright and stable with no visible tilt and there is no imminent risk of tilting or sinking.” Adding the tanker “poses minimum risk of an oil spill at this time.

Images sent to FFOS have now shown the ship in a more upright position. Reports have also been made of a ship-to-ship transfer of crude between Nabarima and a secondary tanker, the Aframax Icaro, to take on some of the load. However, The FFOS warns, “There are insufficient measures in place to contain any spillage that may occur during the transfer especially since the FSO Nabarima is unstable. The Petrolos De Venezuela (PDVSA) must have necessary oil spill containment equipment around the vessel should the worst occur.”

Is it enough?

Activists including local FFOS are calling upon CARICOM to host an emergency meeting and create a suitable plan of action and joint response to the emerging crisis  The Carribean coast and all the lives who depend upon marine ecosystems cannot be put at the threat faced by the spill of the Nabarima and current measures are not sufficient in eliminating this possibility. It is essential to have a more detailed plan of action to prevent 1.3 million barrels of crude oil spilling into the Gulf of Paria.



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