Oil spill spreads across Caribbean to Bonaire

Connie Queline

Oil spill spreads across Caribbean to Bonaire


Oil leaking from a capsized barge off the coast of Tobago has spread hundreds of miles to reach the Caribbean island of Bonaire.

Officials on Bonaire, which is located 50 miles (80km) north of the Venezuelan coast, said the oil posed a “serious threat to both humans and nature”.

The island is the latest to have been contaminated with oil from the barge which ran aground earlier this month.

It is still unclear who owns the barge and what may have caused it to sink.

The authorities on Bonaire, which is a special municipality of the Netherlands, said the island’s east coast, including Sorobon, Lac and Lagun, had been polluted.

They also warned that the island’s mangrove, fish and coral ecosystems were at risk.

The oil leak was first spotted by the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard on 7 February. They traced it to a barge which had become lodged on a reef about 150m (500 ft) off Tobago’s southern coast.

There was no crew on board the barge and the Coast Guard said it had not received any distress signals. They did, however, spot the name “Gulfstream” painted on the side of the vessel.

Trinidad and Tobago authorities said the barge had originated in Panama and had been towed by a tugboat. They said it appeared “to have been bound for Guyana”.


1px transparent line

An investigation conducted by online investigative journalism site Bellingcat suggests the barge stopped in late January in Pozuelos Bay, a Venezuelan port used by the state-owned PdVSA oil company.

According to Bellingcat, the barge may have started leaking oil as early as 3 February. The whereabouts of the boat which had tugged the barge are not currently known.

The prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago declared a national emergency on 11 February. The country’s Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management has been trying to contain the spillage but oil has been continuing to leak from the barge.

The Trinidad and Tobago Weather Center said satellite images suggested the oil slick had spread into the marine area of Grenada as early as 14 February.

From there, it appears to have been carried further westward to Bonaire.

Officials on Bonaire are particularly concerned for the mangroves, which are among the best preserved in the Caribbean.

Related Topics

  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Oil
  • Netherlands


Leave a Comment