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Port union refuses to unload oil ship from Ghana

Published:Wednesday | October 22, 2014 | 12:48 PM
Overseas Yellowstone oil tanker

The powerful Oilfields Workers' Trade Union (OWTU) prevented its members from unloading a ship from West Africa on Tuesday saying that the state-owned oil company, Petrotrin, had not formulated any protocols to deal with the deadly Ebola virus that has killed nearly 5,000 people in West Africa.

But Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan said that the union was overreacting and that the ship Overseas Yellowstone had been cleared to dock at port of Pointe-a-Pierre.

Unlike clearance processes that occurred when a vessel that had visited Ghana was docked in Chaguaramas recently, Petrotrin has called in 'scab labour' to help dock the vessel at Pointe-a-Pierre.

"In light of the heightened global Ebola threat, regular port workers have refused to dock the vessel unless Petrotrin applies the proper procedures and protocols," said Khan.

Ghana is not among the five West African countries whose passengers have been banned from entering Trinidad & Tobago, but OWTU president, General Ancil Roget, told a news conference it matters not, given the fact that the ships normally would use people from other countries.

"Therefore, any threat or any exposure to the Ebola virus would put at risk not only the employee, but the home, family, community and therefore it is in the national interest ... that we call on the company to put in place the necessary protocols in the interest of the workers at Point-a-Pierre.

Roget said that given the fact that the ship had been at other ports, it is possible that someone could be carrying the virus for which there is no known cure.

But Dr Khan said the OWTU is playing games because it is fully aware of the tests that had been conducted on the vessel.

"The ship has been fully cleared medically, there is absolutely no reason to invoke OSHA or anything. It is just delaying tactics by the union," he said. "At the end of the day, the ministry has done its duty; there is nothing to worry about."

He reiterated that Ghana is not one of the countries flagged by Trinidad.