Exuma oil disaster

35,000 gallons of fuel spill in George Town waters

GEORGE TOWN, Exuma – Thirty-five thousand gallons of diesel leaked into waters in Exuma between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, Acting Prime Minister Chester Cooper said yesterday.

Cooper, who is also the member of Parliament for Exumas and Ragged Island, said the supply ship MT Arabian was offloading fuel to Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) when the spill occurred.

It was supposed to offload 115,000 gallons of diesel but was short by 35,000 gallons.

Officials believe that there was a breach in the hose that ran from the supply ship.

The fuel coalesced into a small cove near the old naval base in George Town.

“It was intended to go to BPL but ended up here in the cove,” Cooper said at the site of the leak.

“We are happy that it is contained or appears to be contained.”

He added, “It is an unpopulated area. It is an area not used by anyone, really. In that respect, we are fortunate.”

The MT Arabian was contracted by Sun Oil to deliver the fuel, officials said.

Officials from BPL said the spill will have no impact on the supply of electricity to Exuma residents.

Sun Oil General Manager Clinton Rolle, who was onsite yesterday, said the fuel has a value of $4 per gallon. That works out to $140,000 that leaked into the sea.

In a statement, Sun Oil said the leak was discovered at 4 a.m. on Wednesday during the discharging process.

“At sunrise and upon further assessment of the situation, the crew deployed absorbent pads and containment buoys near the shoreline,” it said.

Cooper, Minister of Works Alfred Sears, Minister of Transport and Housing JoBeth Coleby-Davis and Minister of the Environment Vaughn Miller traveled to the island to visit the site and view ongoing mitigation efforts. Officials from a cross section of government ministries and agencies were also onsite.

The cove, located west of the island’s Fish Fry, was covered in a layer of diesel for several yards when The Nassau Guardian visited. The brown substance gave off a heavy and sickening odor that was noticeable even from the main road.

A small team of roughly five or more men, some from BPL, worked on skimming the surface of the water, removing the fuel and pumping into a nearby truck that would transport it to a tanker whose ultimate destination was Clifton Pier.

One man sat in a boat with the pump and a bucket, thrusting his hands in the contaminated water as he got to work. A team of workers assisted him from land.

A yellow containment boom was in place, separating Exuma’s famous electric blue waters from the brown and dirty water covered in thousands of gallons of fuel.

Officials set up a second boom to ensure nothing escaped the cove.

Sears said the bulk of the diesel should be removed within 24 hours. He noted that diesel is light and stays on top of the water, making it easier to remove.

“There is the political will to expedite this,” he said.

“Within 24 hours, we will have the diesel removed. It’s a very contained area and we are optimistic that the bulk of it will be removed within a 24-hour period.”

Cooper stressed that the government is committed to remediating the area and ensuring that the situation does not become worse.

He noted that NASA astronaut Scott Kelly described Exuma’s waters as the most beautiful on Earth.

“We’ve got to protect this,” he said.

“God has been very kind to us.”

In its statement, Sun Oil President Greg Stuart promised his full cooperation.


The MT Arabian will not be allowed to leave The Bahamas until an investigation into the leak is concluded, Coleby-Davis said.

“I spoke with Port Controller [Berne] Wright and Senior Deputy Controller [Craig] Curtis and I advised them that we have to carry out a full investigation because there [were] some concerns of the breach in the hose that was offloading the diesel oil to the BPL facility and if that is the case, we cannot allow the vessel to leave the jurisdiction until we’ve completed a full investigation,” she said.

“Our officers have gone on to begin their investigation and to get photos of the hose that was used for offloading.

“If the allegations are correct, then we would provide further guidance to the [Director of Public Prosecutions] and the Office of the Attorney General would advise us of the legal parameters surrounding that incident.

“We will allow the vessel to carry the tankers over to the Clifton facility, that I understand BPL has prepared.

“They will be allowed to take that over to Clifton. Once they get over to New Providence, my office will make sure to contain or keep the vessel in place in the jurisdiction until we are satisfied the investigation is completed.”

Minister of Works Alfred Sears surveys remediation efforts yesterday after 35,000 gallons of diesel leaked from a supply ship into waters near the old navy base in George Town, Exuma. Travis Cartwright-Carroll
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Travis Cartwright-Carroll

Travis Cartwright-Carroll is the news editor. He covers a wide range of national issues. He joined The Nassau Guardian in 2011 as a copy editor before shifting to reporting. He was promoted to news editor in January 2023.

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