Has Brazil Found The Culprit Of Its Catastrophic Oil Spill?

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By Tsvetana Paraskova

The federal police in Brazil said on Friday they are investigating a Greece-flagged ship that may have been the origin of a mysterious oil spill that washed up on more than 200 Brazilian beaches two months ago.

Police believe that the oil spill may have occurred on July 28 or 29 some 420 miles off Brazil’s northeast coast. With the help of oceanographic and geolocation data, Brazilian police identified the Greek ship as the only one that may have passed through the area on those days.

“The Greek-flagged vessel docked in Venezuela on July 15, stayed for three days, and sailed to Singapore across the Atlantic Ocean, stopping only in South Africa. The spill investigated would have occurred during this journey,” Reuters quoted the Brazilian police as saying in the statement.

The ship was loaded with oil at Venezuela’s terminal San Jose, the Brazilian Navy said separately.

The mysterious oil spill has puzzled the Brazilian authorities, who say that the oil certainly wasn’t of Brazilian origin, while environmental organizations, politicians, and prosecutors have criticized the government for its poor handling of the oil spill along the beaches in the state of Bahia.

Just as Brazil is preparing to hold what could be a blockbuster US$50-billion oil auction in early November, the oil spill of still unknown origin on more than 200 beaches along Brazil’s northeastern coast is raising alarms due to the government having been so slow to react with the clean-up.

According to Brazilian Mines and Energy Minister Bento Albuquerque, the oil spilled on the beaches is not of Brazilian origin, “so it has nothing to do with oil and gas activity in Brazil, nothing to do with oil and gas auctions.”

The chief executive of Brazilian state energy firm Petrobras, Roberto Castello Branco, said this week that the oil spill could be the worst “environmental attack” in the country’s history.

Samples from the crude at the beaches are being analyzed in the U.S., France, and Norway to determine the origin, while theories abound as to where the oil came from. Some experts say it’s from Venezuela, and some theories suggest that there has been an accident at sea with a ship with a tracker switched off, or from a ship-to-ship transfer, or from a leak from a shipwreck.

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