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85pc of oil tankers don’t meet standards: Ogra

Updated July 06, 2017
BAHAWALPUR: A woman watches vehicles in flames after a large number of people were burnt alive when an oil tanker skidded off the road and exploded.—Online/File
BAHAWALPUR: A woman watches vehicles in flames after a large number of people were burnt alive when an oil tanker skidded off the road and exploded.—Online/File

ISLAMABAD: Estimating up to 85pc of all tanker lorries transporting oil products are not complying with prescribed standards, the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) will ask the oil market company (OMC) concerned to pay Rs10 million in fines and compensation to the families affected by recent oil spill and subsequent inferno in Ahmedpur East.

Sources told Dawn that Ogra had hired the services of two separate third-party inspection companies to ascertain whether the OMC had complied with the 2009 Ogra technical standards for the transportation of petrol, and to identify the reasons for the tragic accident of June 25. With the death of three more victims on Wednesday, the toll in the tragedy rose to 214.

Besides the multitudes of casualties, the inferno also gutted 75 bikes and three cars.

OMCs have been similarly fined in at least two cases in the recent past: accidents in Nankana Sahib and Multan in 2016. In both cases, the companies were fined and made to pay for the compensation, which was given to families of victims by the government.

Ogra — consisting of its chairperson and two members — is expected to immediately take up reports from both third-party inspectors, along with the recommendations of a two-member Ogra technical committee, which will be submitted today (Thursday).

Documents suggest the OMC in question did not comply with Ogra’s orders for submission of an initial incident report within 48 hours, as required. Sources said the ill-fated tanker did not even meet safety and transportation standards of the company itself, let alone Ogra’s 2009 technical standards for road transport vehicles.

Regulator to fine OMC concerned Rs10m; Ahmedpur East tragedy death toll rises to 214

“Shell Pakistan Limited did not comply” with directives to immediately furnish an accident report, an Ogra order said, asking the company to “explain its position for not adhering to the authority’s directive”.

Sources said the company’s response to the accident was also found wanting under the domestic and international standards for such contingencies, adding that Ogra and the provincial government were collecting evidence.

The standards required OMCs to cordon off an accident area with the help of the nearest emergency response team, and an oil spill is considered a serious offence under international standards.

According to an official, it had also come to light that the tanker operator had already offloaded about half of his 50,000 litre cargo before the incident.

Ogra spokesperson Imran Ghaznavi told Dawn the regulator had constituted a two-member team of executive directors to examine reports from third-party inspectors. The team will submit a report to the authority, on which it will proceed further.

While he declined to go into detail, he confirmed that some specific information and documents had been sought from the OMC in question.

An official said Ogra was considering taking a harsh stance, not only against the OMC, but was also planning actions against all other non-compliant companies.

The oil industry, on the other hand, has started lobbying against any punitive action in view of bleak compliance standards. The industry is pushing for a grace period of up to two years to allow tanker lorries and OMCs to comply with regulatory standards and is sending out signals suggesting that extreme steps like a ban on non-compliant tankers would lead to product dry-outs.

Ogra has asked the OMC to provide details of whether the tanker in question was owned by it or outsourced through contractors, along with proofs of agreement, compliance with safety standards and evidence of clearance by the chief inspector of explosives and compliance with road, axle load and tyre standards of the National Highway Authority (NHA).

A report on motor vehicle fitness certificate and minimum standards of the OMC for its private lorries and the check lists for dispatch of products have also been summoned. Specifically, the company has been asked to explain its standard operating procedures (SOPs) for an emergency and why the spill could not be prevented or contained.

Sources in the oil industry concede there were serious shortfalls on the part of the companies and their transportation contractors, but maintained that these could not be overcome overnight.

Shell Pakistan has reported that the tanker belonged to a private contractor, Marwat Enterprises, and contained 50,000 litres of petrol when it met with an accident near Safeerwala village, 6km from Ahmedpur East.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2017