Concerns are growing that an oil tanker carrying millions of gallons of oil could spread its load into the sea between Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago, causing ecological catastrophe.
Venezuela’s flagged Naberrima has lurked in the Gulf of Paria since last January, when US sanctions on Venezuela made it illegal for companies operating in the US to trade with the country’s state-run oil company.
Energy and foreign ministers of Trinidad and Tobago told the Miami Herald newspaper that a team would visit the vessel on Tuesday. Trinidad officials were not immediately available for comment.
According to Venezuelan politicians and green activist groups, Nabarima carries 1.3 million barrels of crude oil. With up to 80 million gallons of oil, a spill from the vessel can cause an ecological disaster: in the Exxon Valdex spill of 1989, one of the worst oil spills, covering 11 million gallons an area twice the size of Rhode Island it was done. .
Venezuela has previously said the vessel is safe, but environmental activists and politicians say new photos suggest it is bending at an increased rate.
The Trinidadian environmental group Fishermen and Friends of the Sea, which represents 50,000 people in the local fishing industry, has called for a national emergency. The group visited the ship by boat on Friday and posted a video showing Nabarima bending over and suspended by anchor chains.
“If something moves, if we have bad weather, there are many circumstances that could cause the vessel to flood, and then we have no recourse,” Gary Aboud, the group’s corporate secretary, said in the video.
Nabarima is jointly owned by Venezuela’s state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) and Eni, the Italian oil giant.
PDVSA could not immediately be reached for comment. NBC News contacted Annie for comment.
Legislators from Venezuela’s National Assembly, who criticized President Nicolas Maduro, called on the country’s government to urgently unload oil from Nabrima to avoid a disaster, saying the risk was “alarmingly increased.”
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“The ship is considered more inclined (listing) than last August as a result of weight and tides,” Maria Gabriella Hernand del Castillo, chairman of the Assembly’s Environment Commission, said in a press release.
The US embassy in Trinidad and Tobago raised its concerns over the vessel in a statement on Friday, warning that “a competition could negatively impact not only the people of Venezuela but also the surrounding countries.”
NBC News has contacted the Trinidad and Tobago government for comment.
Venezuela has previously denied any problems with Nabarima. In September, the offshore executive director for Venezuela’s state oil company Pedro Figuera said on Twitter that Nabarima “complies with environmental and operating standards.”
He later dismissed reports that the ship was unsafe as a “lie” and said it met the required standards “despite alleged information from pseudo-experts on social networks.”