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Govt to offer major relaxation to Ogra

26 July, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: After late night consultations with the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra), the government on Tuesday decided to offer a major relaxation to oil transporters in terms of an extended schedule for compliance with safety standards for transportation of oil products.

Despite the government’s firm stand on implementation of safety standards earlier, the development came amid fears of political opposition taking advantage of the situation arising from fuel shortage. The protesting oil tanker owners will be called for another round of talks on Wednesday (today).

Earlier, as the meeting between government officials and oil tanker owners fell through, the All Pakistan Oil Tankers Association (APOTA) announced that they would continue their strike until their demands were met by the government and refused to follow safety standards introduced in 2009.

It was reported that the country had enough oil stocks for consumption for 10-11 days, but supply disruptions could emerge in some parts of the country in the absence of transportation.

On the other hand, Ogra suspected the oil marketing companies for orchestrating the strike through oil tankers owners and pledged not to compromise on safety standards.

“Our talks with government have failed and the strike will go on,” APOTA chairman Yousuf Shahwani said after attending the meeting co-chaired by the secretary petroleum and the Ogra chairperson.

The Ministry of Petro­leum and Natural Resources had convened the meeting of representatives of the APOTA, All Pakistan Carr­iage Contractors Associa­tion (APCCA) and oil marketing companies (OMCs) to convince the oil tanker owners to call off the strike.

Without taking any punitive action, Ogra had hired the services of two separate third-party inspection companies to verify claims by the oil marketing companies that up to 40 per cent tankers were complying with the 2009 Ogra technical standards for fuel transportation and to identify the reasons for frequent accidents caused by substandard tankers.

After the inconclusive meeting the angry representatives of the oil tanker associations’ chanted slogans against the motorway police and the Ogra.

Mr Shahwani said the APOTOA and the APCCA presented their list of demands and the government refused to accept it. He said the associations decided not to talk to the government officials anymore as the behaviour of the Ogra chairperson was “derogatory”.

“We were told by the Ogra chairperson that the regulator wouldn’t talk to them as they are not Ogra licencee,” he said, adding that it was the oil marketers that were licensed by the authority. The tow associations, thus, would not comply with Ogra’s regulations, he added.

Besides the regulations, representatives of the oil tanker association were critical of the National Highway Authority’s (NHA) police treatment, alleging them of highhandedness.

The APOTOA presented a list comprising of 10 demands to the government which included the increase in freight rate, exclusion of National Logistic Cell from the oil transportation business, stoppage of oil transportation to Peshawar via train, opening of Kohat tunnel for oil tankers and decrease in explosive permit rate. Mr Shahwani said that explosive department was charging Rs10,000 instead of Rs1,000.

The association, he said, will not accept the government plan of increasing the number of oil tankers’ axles from two to five. He said that they had a two-axle agreement with NHA which was in place for the last one decade.

Replying to a query regarding the Bahawalpur oil tanker accident, he said the company or the oil tanker was not responsible for the incident but it was the people who were stealing oil who were actually responsible for the loss of lives.

Separately, Ogra spokesman Imran Ghaznavi accused the oil companies of working behind the oil tanker strike, adding that they would not be allowed to hide behind tankers for a long time and would be exposed soon.

He also accused the oil tankers association of “blackmailing”. Mr Ghaznavi was of the view that the OMCs were trying to avoid implementation of safety standards which were introduced in consultation with the companies who had sought a five-year time for full compliance.

Even after those five years, the OMCs failed to comply with standards despite repeated reminders, he said.

Three more years have lapsed after the five year commitment and yet certain elements were trying to avoid safety standards, said Mr Ghaznavi. “This is no more acceptable. We are ready to talk with the APOTOA and can make some relaxation but there will be no compromise on the safety of Pakistanis”, he said.

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