A probe has been launched into yet another incident of illegal diesel bunkering at the Port of Port-of-Spain. The investigation was initiated yesterday morning by Custom and Exercise officers after the arrest on Wednesday night of two men in Laventille who were in possession of more than 5,000 litres of diesel fuel. The suspects, ages 23 and 58, were arrested around 8.30 pm by officers of the Besson Street CID, led by Inspector Sahadeo Singh, while they were driving a truck along the Old St Joseph Road, Laventille. Investigators said the men were detained after they began to behave suspiciously upon seeing the police, who were on mobile patrol. A search of the tray of the truck revealed 22 metal drums covered by a sheet of plastic.
While under interrogation at the Besson Street Police Station, the men revealed that before being apprehended they were on their way to the Caricom jetty at the Port of Port-of-Spain to deliver fuel to a vessel docked there. The Grenada-registered vessel, Little Desrine, which is listed as a cargo carrier, has been docked in Trinidad for the past couple of days, an officer close to the investigation said. When a news team from the T&T Guardian visited the jetty yesterday, the workers were seen loading the vessel with plastic watertanks and other construction materials. The 58-year-old suspect, a Grenadian national, told police he was the captain of the vessel and frequently bought large amounts of diesel fuel on his trips to Trinidad. The other suspect is said to be a truck driver from Laventille. The captain also claimed to be unaware his activities were illegal. Senior police sources said the captain identified a gas station in Barataria as the regular source of his fuel. Customs and Exercise officers were contacted by police and are probing the incident.
The T&T Guardian was reliably informed the proprietor of the gas station would be contacted within the next couple of days for questioning. Thanks to the State fuel subsidy, local consumers pay only $1.50 a litre for diesel fuel, while the international price is near US95 cents (TT$6.06) a litre. While the ship remained docked at the port up to late yesterday, the T&T Guardian understands the vessel will not be impounded as no illegally purchased fuel was found aboard. Under local legislation, buyers may not purchase more than 100 litres of fuel from a service station without a licence issued by the Ministry of Energy. Wednesday’s incident has not been the first in recent months. Last year during the three-month state of emergency several fishing vessels were intercepted by Coast Guard officers. Some of the vessels were found to be outfitted with large storage tanks for the fuel and pumps and meters to allow retail sale while at sea. Also involved in Wednesday’s exercise were ASP Stephen Grant, Sgt Avalon Frank and Cpl Bartholomew, of the Besson Street CID.