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Letter: Disturbing silence from PM on regional disaster
Published on July 15, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

Dear Sir:

On Tuesday 11 July 2017, the Yucatan Times of Mexico reported that hydrocarbon “oil residues were found on the Riviera Maya’s shores” and are “affecting some Quintana Roo municipalities, such as Solidaridad and Tulum” as a consequence of the petroleum spill that occurred in Trinidad on April 23, 2017, some 79 days before.

According to the Yucatan Times report, Mexican officials have reported that the origin of the oil along the Punta Maroma to the Mayakoba Hotel, is linked to the Petrotrin Tank 70 rupture at the Point-a-Pierre Refinery in April earlier this year.

Will the oceanic currents now carry this oil to United States shorelines? Has the US embassy been alerted? Why were our Central American neighbours not alerted to be on the lookout for this oil before it washed onto their shores? Curacao, Bonaire and even Venezuela were not.

Has Petrotrin done any fingerprinting analysis or investigation? In late April, a large contingent of Petrotrin staff went to Guiria, Venezuela, to investigate the oil residues that washed ashore with dead birds, marine turtles and fish, but where is this report? Should oil spill reports be a clandestine secret?

Compensation was paid to Venezuelans, but little or none was paid here except to an exclusive select few (as disclosed by some of our fisher folk). What exactly are Petrotrin's eligibility criteria for their exclusive compensation? How can a short term compensation value be determined if the ecosystem damage to our Gulf of Paria is long term?

Up to now, 79 days since the Petrotrin Tank 70 rupture, the Honourable Franklin Khan, minister of energy and energy industries is still insisting that it was only 300 barrels that escaped, whilst Petrotrin remain tongue-tied on the matter. Where is the accountability and transparency that the nation voted for?

Why has Petrotrin never been fined for this avoidable disaster of their own making? What is the cost of damages being claimed by Venezuela, Curacao, Bonaire and now Mexico, which our nation is now forced to bear?

Our Right Honourable Prime Minister has been disturbingly silent on this regional environmental disaster.

Dr Rowley, can 300 barrels of oil contaminate the coastal areas of Venezuela, Bonaire, Curacao and all the way to Mexico? Why is your minister not sharing the inventory report of the volume of oil contained in Tank 70 immediately before and immediately after this massive rupture? Did he tell the truth when he stated in Parliament that only 300 barrels escaped?

When ministers deliberately lie in Parliament and the prime minister by his silence gives consent, the respect for all Cabinet utterances and the reputation of our beleaguered nation is brought into international disrepute.

Mr Prime Minister, we respectfully remind you that accountability and transparency must be upheld under your watch. As Cabinet considers the future of Petrotrin, please remember that, if your appointed ministers, boards and CEOs cannot act on a 2003 Shell Tank Integrity Assessment Report, which warned of "increased stresses on annular seams" and that "if nothing would be done on Tank 70... in the next two years, it is quite possible that this tank will rupture at the bottom annular ring, and empty into the sea in a short period of time", Sir, that was in 2003. Nothing was done, no one acted, and Petrotrin’s management and staff continue to enjoy unrealistically inflated salaries.

Against that background, should the taxpayer now be put at further risk to bear the burden of Petrotrin's newest $15 billion upgrade proposal? If Petrotrin was unable to justify its existence in boom years, how will they survive in the depressed energy market? Is Petrotrin the new Caroni, hanging working class people with excessive state subsidies while milking our already exhausted economy?

Gary Aboud
Corporate Secretary
Fishermen and Friends of the Sea
Reads: 2574

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