ST. EUSTATIUS–The Department of Waterways of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment recently issued a report on the October 20, 2012, oil spill at NuStar Statia Terminal. The company’s response had been too little and too late, in certain respects, it was stated in the report. The Daily Herald asked several stakeholders in St. Eustatius for their reactions.
“I think it has been made clear to NuStar that the rules are being applied and that from now on the company is expected to act adequately under such circumstances. According to me, the report is clearly stating that (financial) sanctions will be imposed and that slow response will no longer be tolerated,” Commissioner Koos Sneek said.
The oil spillage, which occurred in the early morning hours, was caused by a ruptured hose at Statia Terminal’s floating hose station, while oil was pumped into a ship. Some 15 minutes after the spillage was first reported, NuStar started investigations, but no oil was sighted until one hour later around the hose station. One hour and 25 minutes after the spill started, NuStar decided to halt all activities at the loading station. Efforts to contain the pollution and to clear the oil didn’t start until 7:00am. Divers found the hole in the cargo hose at 8:35am, after which it was temporarily closed at 10:25am.
NuStar said the spillage was a result of third-party damage. “Although it was still dark at the time, NuStar employees immediately implemented an investigation to identify the source, as well as determine the nature of the release. NuStar personnel also began mobilizing people and equipment for containment and cleanup, and worked with government officials in the response effort. NuStar acted quickly and appropriately in investigating the release, and preparing for containment and cleanup. NuStar deployed all necessary people and equipment in as safe and efficient a manner as feasible under the circumstances, and used all feasible methods to recover the product. Thanks to quick response and mutual cooperation, the cleanup was implemented quickly and safely and there was no resulting damage,” company management stated.
In the report it was stated that a speedy response by the terminal was hindered by the fact that the oil spill occurred at night with limited vision. The Inspector considered the response timely, but was critical of the fact that efforts to contain and clear the oil contamination didn’t start until four hours and 15 minutes after the spillage was first reported, which was considered a violation of NuStar’s responsibilities as stipulated in its permit.
NuStar also failed to take certain preventive measures, such as placing an oil-containment screen. measures taken along the shore near the terminal were deemed sufficient. Company management said to be pleased that the agency concluded in large part that NuStar acted responsibly and in compliance with the laws and its permit. But it disagrees with a few assertions in the report, including statements regarding the presence of oil in Saba.
“Our investigation in the area around Saba revealed no evidence that the fuel from the subject spill reached Saba. We will be discussing the report and these and other issues with the agency, and are hopeful that we can reach a favourable resolution via further discussions,” NuStar management said.
According to the report, part of the oil spillage had drifted into open sea. As a result of this, oil globules were found in Saba and part of the contamination drifted over Saba Bank. This was also considered a violation of the permit. NuStar said to be committed to working cooperatively with government officials with respect to its operations on Statia and to being committed to safe and environmentally sound operations. Investigations revealed that the cargo hose was damaged by the propeller of a ship or boat. The report said it could not be established whether the damage was caused by a third party or by NuStar itself. The damaged cargo hose was confiscated by the Prosecutor’s Office. The report said that measures will be taken if the permit’s stipulations are violated again before February 1, 2014.
“A report is only as good as its follow-up,” according to Statia Safe and Sound Foundation, which is critical of NuStar’s late response to the spillage and of the Dutch authorities seemingly extenuating this. “Everything revolves around monitoring and enforcement. You can have as many rules and regulations, but if not upheld, those rules are only there to point out the culprit, while those affected remain with the damage,” said Safe and Sound Chairman Walter Hellebrand.
He also pointed out that the report did not indicate measures to be taken to prevent similar damages to the oil installation in the future. Hellebrand said that NuStar, in conjunction with the Harbour Master, was to restrict access to the terminal’s loading and unloading zone and to indicate the location of pipes at sea by lights. But even though these measures were due November 2012, “this is still a work in progress,” Hellebrand stated.
St. Eustatius National Parks Stenapa, which borders with the terminal, was also asked for comment, but didn’t provide any.