Press Statement By The Association Of Oil Marketing Companies (AOMCS) On The Atomic Junction Gas Explosion
Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the Press. On behalf of the Board Chairman of AOMCs, CEOs of OMCs/LPGMs present, we welcome you all to this short but important briefing. As we are all aware, the 7th October 2017 Atomic Junction Gas Explosion will go down in the history books as one nightmarish incident that has resulted in the loss of seven (7) lives and one hundred and thirty-two (132) others hospitalised as well as several properties destroyed. The Association would like to express its heartfelt and profound condolences to the bereaved families and to the affected victims of this sad and undesirable event. May we please observe a minute of silence in memory those who lost their lives!!
Ladies and gentlemen, it is unfortunate that we should witness such an incident like this notwithstanding the Association’s commitment to safety as it has embarked on an extensive safety campaign this year in collaboration with you the media as partners.
As a mark of respect for the dead, per our culture, and also to the laws of the country, the Association will not be in a haste to pre-empt or predict the findings of the team set up by the government to investigate the issue but will patiently wait for the outcome. Meanwhile, we wish to state emphatically that the Association will not in any way seek to shield any member who violates the rules and regulations of the industry especially in such a manner that endangers lives and property. What we however wish to add is that due process should be followed in dealing with whoever is found culpable.
Ladies and gentlemen, we duly acknowledge that we have the prime responsibility of making our facilities safe and secure for our numerous customers who we have served with the supply of LPG (gas) for about 30 years, and of petrol and diesel for about 100 years. In this regard, one would expect that in these tough time, we will seek to be united as a collective force to correct and prevent the reoccurrence of such incidents, as safety is a shared responsibility for operators, regulators, agencies, customers, the general public and the government.
It is however sad and disheartening to hear, read and witness a plethora of comments from some pseudo experts with no or little knowledge and understanding of the LPG industry and those who should have known better, but for reasons unfathomable, throwing dust into the eyes of the public with falsehood, half-truths and inaccurate information. Such flammable utterances, innuendos and castigations have the tendency to kill initiatives and denigrate the Oil Marketing Companies/Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers (OMCs/LPGMs) who have invested in these retail outlets and have been rendering very meaningful services to the country at large.
It is common knowledge that it takes a prospective retail outlet owner more than 6 months to obtain all the necessary permits and approval prior to the commencement of the construction process with borrowed funds at high interest rates. We wish to inform the general public that the retail outlets are sited in areas zoned for the purpose by the Town Planning Department. It must be noted that NPA will only grant an applicant a construction permit when all the various requirements have been met. These include a letter from the Town Planning Department indicating that the site has been duly zoned for that activity; an EPA Permit, Building Permit by the District, Municipal, Metropolitan Assemblies, Fire Permit by Ghana National Fire Service, Ghana Standards Authority certification, among others.
This should tell you that this is one of the most highly regulated industries in the country and that the Association’s Members are among the most law-abiding business operators in the country since they go through all these steps before operating.
The Association would like to add that even when outlets have been constructed and are being operated, there is continuous inspection and monitoring by the regulators and other agencies to ensure that the retail outlets are operating according to the prescribed standards of performance. Additionally, we ensure that our retail outlets are manned by qualified managers and supervisors whose responsibilities include ensuring that the day-to-day operations at the stations are safe.
Therefore, the unparalleled marauding, demonstrations against some legitimate retail outlets and hitting the “panic button” exemplified by wanton closure of retail outlets in a “Rambo style” by some unrepented MMDCEs in an industry regulated by five ministries and other regulatory bodies, is unwarranted and must be condemned with all the contempt it deserves. This has innate results of culminating in chaos and anarchy in the society and inflaming passion among the citizenry thereby creating disaffection for OMCs/LPGMs. We would like to reiterate that OMCs/LPGMs are neither “monsters” nor “criminals” but are Ghanaians making a living by legally investing in the petroleum industry. Some marketers have their administrative offices within the confines of such outlets. Therefore, our intent to have a safe operation of our outlets cannot be in doubt!! This situation rather calls for a sober deep-seated thought, thorough, unbiased and unfettered investigations to unearth the root causes and furnish the nation with sustained corrective and preventive actions which will inform the public in a positive manner whilst consolidating or improving the existing industry standards for the public safety assurance.
The downstream petroleum industry is a well guided and regulated industry in this nation of ours, with the National Petroleum Authority as the lead regulator. As indicated earlier, there are other statutory authorities such as the Town Planning Department, Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs), Ghana Standards Authority (GSA), etc. whose collective duty is enshrined by the respective legal frameworks with safety and security as the core objectives. Therefore, the blame game at this stage of our national life rather exacerbates the already precarious situation.
While we wait patiently for the investigation report, we will pursue the following:
- Intensify the peer audit activity with priority to outlets in congested areas especially on discharge of LPG from the Bulk Road Vessels (i.e. tankers).
- We will continue to provide the requisite training for all our personnel especially the attendants, drivers and their mates.
- We will continue to explore and introduce new technology to enhance our operations in our outlets.
- We will intensify public education on safety in collaboration with you the media, our key partners.
For our regulators:
- We shall continue to work closely with them to comply with their regulations.
- Regarding their safety auditors, we recommend that the recruitment of the said auditors must be such that they are located in the related districts or municipalities to enhance appreciation of the requisite environments from which we operate.
- We also recommend that, together we continue to review the job safe procedure of transferring or discharging of products
As a result of growth patterns, both economic and population;
- We would like to suggest that they assist to decongest areas in and around the LPG outlets since some of our LPG outlets which were initially sited far from such densely populated areas, are now being surrounded by structures and people posing danger to lives and property.
- Together with the Fire Service offices in the districts, periodically work with our dealers and station managers to organize emergency drills.
- To respect the laws that govern the industry and allow regulatory agencies duly mandated to do their work instead of interfering in their work.
We wish to assure government that as an industry, we are committed to improving standards in the industry and thus will support efforts in this direction.
However, we wish to respectfully indicate that new policies introduction should not be done in a rush but should be well-thought through with the buy-in of all key stakeholders such as our members since the effective and efficient implementation of such policies rests largely on us. It is the success of the policy that matters not the haste in introducing it.
Customers/ General Public:
We would also like to remind the general public that the retail outlets are confined areas hence the following must be strictly adhered to;
- Anyone who has no business at the retail outlets should not venture entry.
- No one should smoke or use combustibles materials (i.e. materials that can easily catch fire) in the hazardous area around the bullets or tanks, Bulk Road Vessels (tankers) and the fuel pumps.
- The engine of the vehicle to be filled should be switched off before the dispensing begins.
- Desist from making the retail LPG outlets a parking lot and an emergency shelter.
- Consumers should observe all safety signs at the retail outlets.
In conclusion, we the members of the Association are willing, determined and ready to lend our support to make our outlets a safe place for all since we are committed to best industry practices.
God bless our homeland Ghana.
12th October, 2017