Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Sunday that “the worst is yet to come” with an oil spill that has affected fisheries and polluted more than 200 beaches on the country’s coast, Agence France-Presse reported. “What came so far and what was collected is a small amount of what was spilled,” Bolsonaro said in an interview with Record television.
Oil slicks have been appearing for three months off the coast of northeast Brazil, fouling beaches along a 2,000-kilometer area. Federal police in the city of Rio De Janeiro last Friday raided the offices of Delta Tankers Ltd., a Greek company that owns a ship that authorities suspect may have been the source of the oil, The Wall Street Journal reported. Authorities are investigating the Greek-flagged oil ship carrying heavy Venezuelan crude as the source of the spills, with police saying the leak appeared to originate about 700 kilometers off Brazil’s coast at the end of July, Reuters reported. There is strong evidence that the company, the captain and the vessel’s crew failed to communicate [to] authorities about the oil spill/release of the crude oil in the Atlantic Ocean,” Brazilian prosecutors said in a statement.
However, employees at Delta Tankers told AFP they did not accept blame for the spill and that the tanker’s voyage, carrying heavy crude oil from Venezuela to Malaysia in July, ended uneventfully. “There is no proof of the vessel having stopped, conducted any kind of STS [ship-to-ship] operation, leaked, slowed down or veered off course on its passage from Venezuela to Melaka, Malaysia,” the company said in a statement. Venezuela has also denied any responsibility for the spill. Brazil’s solicitor general said the country would seek damages in the case, arguing that the oil appearing on beaches has hurt tourism and fishing communities in the region.
Brazilian authorities also said they had requested cooperation from international agencies, including Interpol, to further investigate the ship, the crew and the Greek company. Brazil has so far collected some 2,000 metric tons of oil sludge since they first discovered it in late August. The chief executive of Brazilian state energy company Petrobras, Roberto Castello Branco, said last week that the oil spill could be the worst “environmental attack” in the country’s history, Oilprice.com reported. Petrobras has also denied any involvement with the environmental disaster. Scientists say the spill is now threatening marine sanctuaries and coral reefs. Brazil’s fishing industry is taking steps to reassure the public that its products are safe, IntraFish reported. Offshore shrimp farming remains unaffected so far, but warnings about the consumption of seafood have been issued in some areas of Brazil’s northeast.
By Latin American Energy Advisor
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