Venezuelan vessel stranded in the Caribbean


Hunter Berube

Suffolk Climate Watch graphic

The Nabarima, a Venezuelan vessel, has been stranded in the middle of the Caribbean Sea since last year. Fears of the vessel sinking are rising and the possibility of an oil spill has left many uneasy.

The tanker is carrying approximately 80 million pounds of oil and is beginning to tilt on one side, according to CBS News

The possibility of an environmental disaster could ruin an area that is home to countless species. The health of people in nearby countries could be affected by the issues of skin and eye irritation as well as breathing and neurologic problems, according to MedlinePlus.

Marine life such as birds, otters, sea turtles and other mammals can also succumb to the treacheries of a possible oil spill. According to NOAA, oil can destroy the insolation of fur mammals, like otters, which then makes them weak and vulnerable.

The amount of oil on board could lead to an oil spill about eight times as large as the famous Exxon Valdez spill, which spread more than 10 million U.S. gallons of crude oil off the coast of Alaska in 1989, according to Oil Price.

According to CBS News, the vessel is a venture between a Venezuelan oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), and Italy’s oil giant, Eni SpA.

The Eni SpA has been looking to distribute crude oil from the vessel but is waiting for the U.S government to approve, an Eni spokesperson told Reuters

Petrescu operations, owners of the vessel, have been at a halt since the Trump administration had the company stop all oil extractions and operations in January of 2019, according to Oil Price

According to VOX, since the vessel has begun to rot while it has stayed afloat in the Caribbean,  leading many worried the oil will eventually spill out of it. 

Environmental group Fishermen and Friends of the Sea, consisting of 50,000 fishermen, have asked the Caribbean community to protect the area from a potential disaster, according to CBS News

Although there has been a recent positive assessment by Trinidad and Tobago’s government, saying the potential spill is no longer a major environmental risk, many still continue to fear for the worst, according to VOX.

A spill such as this could threaten the southern Caribbean. Climate change is currently affecting an important coral reef system and this spill could damage it beyond recovery, according to CBS News. If this were the case, the entire marine system would eventually fail.

“Venezuela’s once powerful oil industry is literally falling apart, with years of mismanagement, corruption, falling prices and a U.S. embargo imposed last year bringing aging infrastructure to the brink of the collapse,” according to a Sept. 24 report by the Washington Post.