Mystery ship capsizes in Trinidad and Tobago, triggering massive oil spill and national emergency

Emergency workers in Trinidad and Tobago are rushing to clean up a massive oil spill after a mysterious ship ran aground near the Caribbean island, putting a damper on Carnival tourism.

The spill was “out of control” as of Sunday, Prime Minister Keith Rowley said, adding the country was grappling with a national emergency.

The mysterious ship capsized in the waters off the Caribbean island on Wednesday, with no distress calls made, no sign of a crew and no clear sign of ownership.

A massive oil spill from an overturned ship off the coast of Trinidad and Tobago is “out of control”, Prime Minister Keith Rowley said.

Tobago Emergency Management Agency

Rowley declared a national emergency on Sunday as oil leaking from the ship struck nearly 10 miles of coastline.

“Cleaning and repairs can only begin once we have the situation under control. At the moment the situation is not yet under control,” the prime minister told journalists.

Divers have so far been unable to stop the leak.

Hundreds of volunteers have worked since Thursday to stop the spread of the oil, and the government has asked for even more volunteers to lend a hand. Images and videos released by the government show crews working late into the night on Sunday.

The spill damaged a reef and Atlantic beaches, and residents of the village of Lambeau have been advised to wear masks or relocate temporarily.

The government posted satellite images on social media showing the affected areas.

“The satellite images show a distinctive silvery stain emanating from the overturned ship. In addition, there are noticeable streaks of a thick, blackish substance accompanying the spill,” the post says.

View of the Rockly Bay oil spill on the island of Tobago, Trinidad and Tobago, on February 10, 2024.


The spill comes at the height of Carnival and threatens the tourism sector that is crucial to the twin-island country’s economy.

It remains unclear how badly tourism will be affected. A cruise ship with three thousand people on board docked in Tobago on Sunday.

Rowley said the mystery ship may have been involved in ‘illegal’ business, adding: “We don’t know who it belongs to. We have no idea where it comes from, nor do we know everything it contains.”

Divers noticed the name “Gulfstream” on the side of the vessel and identified a piece of cable, possibly indicating it is being towed, Rowley said.

The island’s Emergency Management Agency said there were no signs of life on the ship, which is about 100 meters long. The agency posted dozens of images and videos on social media showing the ship and crew working to contain and clean up the oil spill.

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