Accused Tug in Tobago Oil Spill Arrested on Other Charges

Close up of an oil slick at sea
Updated Published

Nearly four months after Tobago experienced one of its worst environmental disasters, the vessel allegedly responsible has been located thousands of kilometers away on another continent and arrested on separate charges.

On the morning of February 7, local authorities detected an oil slick emanating from a capsized vessel off the west coast of Tobago. The slick quickly reached the southwest shoreline of the Caribbean island, prompting a national emergency declaration.

The tug and barge involved were eventually identified as the Solo Creed and the Gulfstream, both known for towing Venezuelan oil. On its final, ill-fated voyage, the barge was carrying approximately 35,000 barrels of oil destined for Guyana but encountered difficulties along the way.

After the 48-year-old barge capsized off the coast of Tobago, the oil slick spread hundreds of kilometers west, reaching the east coast of the Dutch Caribbean islands of Bonaire, Aruba, and later Grenada. The cleanup efforts for the oil spill are estimated to have cost $23.5 million to date.

An exclusive investigation by the Trinidad & Tobago Guardian and the Dutch journalism group Bellingcat has tracked down the Solo Creed.

The tug was arrested on May 11 in Angola for an unauthorized breach of the African nation’s offshore oil security perimeter, specifically in oil extraction blocks 17 and 18. The vessel is currently anchored in Luanda Bay.

Stuart Young, Trinidad & Tobago’s energy minister, has contacted his counterparts in Angola and is assessing the new information that has emerged.

At the time of the incident in February, neither the tug nor the barge had insurance, and their ownership was initially unclear. It has since been revealed that Abraham Olalekan of Nigeria owned both the tug and the barge.