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Opinions of Monday, 10 July 2017

Columnist: Abubakari Seidu Ajarfor

BOSTGATE: BOST not responsible, TSL must answer

I like to bring the earlier background I had skirted into alignment with the reality on the ground for the public to get a fuller appreciation of the issues surrounding the operations of Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation (BOST) which led to the sale of 5million litres of contaminated fuel referred to as off-spec.

The main argument and the jabs by the two political divide is centered on SLOP and FUEL CONTAMINATION, and the attempt to brazenly legitimize the ocular act by seeking to equalise the sale of contaminated fuel to slop is completely impossible and technically unfit.

I am not agnostic but let me illustrate my concern in this scheme of things to pigeon-hole the over-drive and what that has led us to miss what is crucial here again. The underlying quest in all the efforts is that for once let us debate issues and that comes with two conditions: think about them as a duty and engage in less disgusting banter. The purpose of this article is, putting the issues into perspectives using extracts from an anonymous document titled “BOSTGATE SCANDAL” devoid of any political machinations.

A comprehensive document making the rounds on social media and published in a Portable Document Format (PDF) gives an insight and true reflection of the operations and activities of BOST today and yesterday. It further distinguishes between sludge, slop and contamination of fuel, throwing the spotlight on who bears what and who is incharge of what, and where the issue is emanating from.

A dossier of reports including this document headlined “BOSTGATE SCANDAL: Open Letter to His Excellency the President of the Republic of Ghana” explained that sludge refers to the petroleum sediments gathered in tanks over time. It is mud-like and often collected when tanks are cleaned. Cleaning per the API rules is required every 10 years. While cleaning may be done at shorter intervals it is not that frequent.

In the case of slop, it refers to it as a mixture of different products (fuels, water etc) which interface in the normal course of operating depots. Every modern depot has a slop tank as part of its engineering make up. At BOST slop is mainly created when a given type of product (eg. Diesel) is dislodged from the export pump station (EPS) by the pumping of a different type of product (e.g. petrol) from the All Buoy Berth central pipe line. To ensure the incoming petrol does not get contaminated by the diesel in the EPS, the dislodged diesel is pushed into the slop tank. It added that the size of the slop tank at the BOST Accra Plains Depot (APD) is 75,000 litres. The maximum dislodged from the EPS during any import is about 3,000 litres.

In respect of contaminated products, it says improper products or chemicals are introduced into good products in a way that materially distorts the quality of the product. Contaminated products are not sold but corrected through blending. Blending refers to the mixture of different quality products to achieve a desired specification.

So generally, it noted that all products not meeting a given specification are referred to as off-spec and therefore slop, sludge and contaminated products are all off-spec. As observed above all products are treated differently, disposed differently and have different uses.

The point it made in reference to the political jabs is that it is disingenuous to simply address slop and product contamination as off-spec in the ongoing saga.

This is where the issue is and according to the document reports from BOST officials indicated that the contamination was a result of the displacement of petrol in the ABB pipeline into a diesel shore tank at BOST. This we find very surprising. It definitely must be the first time ever.

It is almost impossible. Prior to the discharge of any cargo through the ABB pipeline, there are pre-berthing meetings in which BOST is represented together with the operator of the ABB facility and the owners of the products to be discharged among others. Information on the type of product to be displaced in the pipepline would be discussed and noted by all. The operators of the ABB facility (KMS) liaise with the managers of the BOST APD facility (TSL) before discharge is done. No party commences operations blindly.

TSL must be held Responsible

Considering the fact of the case at BOST, the very same questions there were bobbling in the heads of many Ghanaians including those cited in OccupyGhana’s statement seeks to find out exactly how the contamination happened, was the product contaminated through negligence, criminal activity or any other illegal or wrongful act, and if so, who was responsible for it.

Has Ghana suffered any financial loss from this transaction, and if so, are there grounds to charge anyone with the offence of causing financial loss?

It is instructive to note that the BOST depot is managed by TSL limited who is paid about USD300,000 monthly (previously USD600,000) as management fees. This kind of contamination can only be a function of malice or extreme negligence.

Negligence in that, Kpone Marine Services (KMS) may have advised BOST/TSL wrongly on the type of product being displaced in the pipeline or BOST/TSL may just have wrongly opened the petrol tank valves instead of the diesel tank valves. Reference to negligence in point above, where KMS may have wrongly indicated the type of product in the pipeline, it must be held fully liable and not BOST.

This is where I find it interesting that where the wrong valves may have been opened to displace the pipeline cargo, TSL as managers of the depot must be questioned. They have responsibility for the management of the depot.

They determine and designate appropriate tanks to receive each cargo. They also authorise actions and inactions in the depot. It is, therefore, expected that in the occurrence of this type of contamination, either TSL or KMS (or their predecessor) would have been held accountable.

TSL logistic (GH) Limited entered into strategic partnership with BOST in 2014 for the upgrade, operations, management and maintenance of a network of 6 petroleum terminals which include Accra, Akosombo, Buipe, Mami Water, Kumasi and Bolgatanga.

Among the highlights of TSL responsibility is complete elimination of product losses and theft and the introduction of world-class processes for safety adherence and operational activities of BOST (www.tsllimited.com).

So the million-dollar question is “what then happened?” Is this not an enough reason to charge them for a breach of contract for failing to execute their mandate professionally as operators of BOST terminals? Ghanaians have waited patiently enough and it is about time that the operators of the facility TSL and its counterpart tell Ghanaians the truth and why they must not be “hanged” for the loss of about 10 million Ghana Cedis to the state. According to Murtala Mohammed, a former NDC Member of Parliament for Nanton Constituency on 3news.com, it is quite surprising how the Ministry of Energy has become a spokesperson for TSL.

Tarzan Charges at TSL

The Chief Policy Analyst at the Ghana Institute of Public Policy Options (GIPPO), Dr. Charles Wereko-Brobbey, popular referred to as Tarzan on TV3’s Hot Issues on Saturday said contamination is a deliberate process where for example you want to put diesel into a tank that is dedicate purposefully for the storage of petrol.

“It is a deliberate process because if you are running things properly it shouldn’t happen. I will be generous to say occasionally and generally it is very hard to see and at the most generous it shouldn’t be such an occurrence and certainly not the type of volumes,” he intimated.

Tarzan stated that “the managers of BOST facility, I think they should be held responsible because it is their job to ensure that such operations go on even if the staffs there are BOST members. They are paid and from what I hear about 300-600,000 dollars a month plus expenses. So really they have absolutely no business to let something like this happen. They should be held liable for the loss to the state.”

He intimated that it is curious that in the 4-5 days of one MD leaving and another taking over certain 5million litres of contaminated fuel have been sold.

“We are curious about it in the sense that somebody in my view was taking advantage to misbehave. The managers of the facility whom I believe are called TSL will have to be asked to explain. I wouldn’t blame the old MD or the new MD,” Dr. Charles Wereko-Brobbey told the host of the show, Winston Amoah.

It is scandalous why BOST will want to bear the liabilities relating to this contamination instead of holding TSL or KMS responsible. The facts have been established and the issues are clear and the underlying quest is to allow due process to follow so the perpetrators can be brought to book.

Napoleon Hill once said, “war grows out of the desire of the individual to gain advantage at the expense of his fellow man.”

According to Franklin D. Roosevelt, “in politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.”

Watch out for my next episode on: “Contaminated Product Getting to the Market” and the question you and I must be asking ourselves is ‘am I a victim of this contaminated fuel, and if so, must someone be allowed to go free.’

Development Journalist
Public Relations and Advertising (B.A)
jarfemma@gmail.com