IMA Completes First Round of Preliminary Oil Finger-Printing Results from Samples Taken at the Site of Tobago Oil Spill

Photo: Overhead view of vessel off the coast of Tobago.  Source:  TT Weather Center.

IMA Completes First Round of Preliminary Oil Finger-Printing Results from Samples Taken at the Site of Tobago Oil Spill

Port of Spain; February 25, 2024: Planning and Development Minister Pennelope Beckles wishes to inform the public and media that the Institute of Marine Affairs has completed the first round of analysis of the results of the hydrocarbon samples taken at the site of the ongoing oil spill nearshore Cove Bay on the Atlantic side of Tobago.

The preliminary results produced by the newly acquired Gas Chromatography–Mass Spectrometer (GC-MS) instrument indicate that the substance exhibits characteristics consistent with a refined oil consisting of both light and heavy hydrocarbon fractions, similar to a diesel-like product. The IMA will collect further samples representative of the vessel's oil to provide confirmatory results. These results will lay the foundation for further response strategies to link the hydrocarbon substance to refined products, whether produced in the region or further afield. IMA's Director, Dr Ava Maxam, said the next step would be for Trinidad and Tobago to reach out to regional territories with refineries for cross-matching of refined petroleum products and databases for comparison with the characteristics of the fuel found in the vessel.

The Institute’s Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing Unit is also supporting recovery efforts by detecting and tracking the progress of the fuel’s slick extent on the ocean's surface using satellite imagery. Near real-time capture of the spill's location enables the visualisation and analysis of spatial data thereby informing decision-making for strategically deploying resources to mitigate the impact on vulnerable coastal ecosystems and assets.

The IMA's Marine Ecologists have assessed the spill's impact on sensitive ecosystems, and will continue to monitor vulnerabilities of coastal and marine resources such as coral reefs, seagrass and mangroves, as well as determine through fish samples collected at various points along the affected shorelines whether or not there are unusual hydrocarbon levels detected in their tissues.

Under its Water Quality Monitoring Programme, the IMA will continue to test for dissolved and dispersed petroleum hydrocarbons (DDPH) to determine the concentration of hydrocarbons in the water column until results indicate a return to pre-incident levels. This monitoring will form part of IMA's plan to recover and restore the affected areas.

Minister Beckles commits to continue providing the expertise of the Ministry of Planning and Development through the Institute of Marine Affairs and the Environmental Management Authority in support of all agencies in Tobago as we work together to continue managing the oil spill.