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Oil spill hits Venezuelan coast line

The Portugal flagged cargo ship NAUMA was drifting while "Not under command" about 40 nautical miles off the coast of Venezuela yesterday. This indicates to other ships in the area that they are at the mercy of the waves and wind and that everyone should steer clear to avoid a collision.

Shortly after departing the port of La Guaira on July 29 with a stated destination of Georgetown Guyana, the NUAMA encountered as yet unknown issues. Over the next 2 days the crew attempted to repair the ship as it drifted north west towards Bonaire, and during this time it is likely the ship spilled an unknown quantity of fuel oil. On the afternoon of August 1st they managed to get underway again and headed back towards La Guaira, the ship promptly broke down while still about 25 nautical miles off shore. After another day of repairs while drifting they attempted to get underway this afternoon, this attempt in the direction of Curacao or Bonaire was also short lived and they didn't make it far.

On July 30th this video was circulated on social media showing a huge oil slick on the beach front in Gulf de Triste. While accidents do happen frequently and the poor state of repair in Venezuela's oil industry is well documented, that doesn't appear to be the cause here.

Seen below in a pair of satellite photos taken July 31, we can see the spill is significant in size and at that point in time had already spread to cover almost 100 square miles drifting more than 50 miles west south west of the NUAMA.

A Reuters new articles confirmed that the source of the spill was a ships fuel tanks and not a ship to ship transfer. The chair of the opposition-held National Assembly’s environmental committee, Maria Hernandez said she was concerned about the effect of pollution on marine life as well as water supplies onshore.

“This affects one of our most exquisite coastlines, which is very important for tourism,” Hernandez said in a telephone interview.

Just north of where the spill is currently making landfall is one of Venezuela's most beautiful national parks Morrocoy. Until updated satellite photos are available we wont know what the full extent of the damage to the coast line is but a source I spoke to who traveled from the park August 2nd tells me it was not yet affected.

The ship's operator Peter Döhle Schiffahrts-KG was not immediately available for comment.

Written by Simon Bolivar

Information, data and graphics from MarineTraffic.com & sentinel-hub.com