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Oil probe

Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine

PORT OF SPAIN — There was tension on the high seas yesterday as Venezuela’s police, La Guardia Nacional, boarded a Petrotrin oil rig to determine whether it was illegally operating in the Venezuelan oil zone.

Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine, speaking to the Express by phone, confirmed that the Spanish authorities did stop the rig’s operations to verify that territorial borders were not being crossed.

The rig, said Ramnarine, is owned by a company called Well Services which does drilling for Petrotrin.

“After spending some time on the rig they then left… Right now we are investigating the matter and assembling all the facts before we make any statements,” said Ramnarine.

He said the rig was operating in the South West Soldado field within the Trinmar acreage, which is very close to the Venezuelan border.

Ramnarine said the relevant authorities were called in to probe the matter including the Coast Guard, Chief of Defence Staff Kenrick Maharaj, Petrotrin, and the Foreign Affairs Minister among others.

Petrotrin president Khalid Hassanali said yesterday that Petrotrin has been drilling in that area for some time.

“It is in Trinidad waters. Yes they (Guardia Nacional) did board this morning…; the geographic coordinates were checked, they left, nobody was harmed,” he said.

“We’re having diplomatic interventions to make sure that everything is fine to ensure that this does not happen again,” he added.

Disputed claim

A release from Petrotrin later stated that at 10:45 a.m. yesterday, a sea-going vessel which identified itself as the Venezuelan Coast Guard, radioed personnel working on Rig 110 in Petrotrin’s offshore Soldado Field, and claimed that the rig was operating in Venezuelan waters.

“Petrotrin personnel provided the necessary geographical coordinates which confirmed that the rig was indeed operating lawfully, well within the maritime borders of Trinidad and Tobago. The Venezuelan vessel therefore departed without further delay,” stated the release.

It stated further that Petrotrin security patrols visited the scene, and the Trinidad and Tobago Police and Coast Guard were immediately informed.

According to the release, since 2004 Petrotrin has been compliant with the mandatory International Ship and Port Facility Security Code, an amendment to the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (1974/1988), which has outlined detailed security arrangements for ships and ports operating internationally. (Express)

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