More vehicles affected: Vitol refutes charges
More private vehicles were yesterday hit by the country’s latest fuel scam as most of the 20,000 tons of substandard diesel imported entered the market.
The government on Friday decided to again blacklist the offending company — Vitol — until investigations are completed and two foreign laboratory test reports are received. But the company in a statement denied it supplied contaminated diesel.
Vitol was blacklisted by the CPC for supplying a stock of High Sulphur Fuel Oil mixed with waste lubricants in 2009. But two years later, the CPC removed Vitol from the blacklist after the company paid US dollars 150,000 (Rs 16.8 million then) when Harry Jayawardena was the CPC chairman.
Petroleum Industries Minister Susil Premajayantha said yesterday Vitol had been informed about the government’s decision and all imports through this company had been put on hold pending the investigation.
“Depending on the outcome of the investigation, we will take action against the company,” the minister said.
Until yesterday, more than 150 complaints about cases of stalling of vehicles, railway engines and cranes were reported to the CPC, but the figure was expected to rise with several private vehicles also reporting engine problems.
“It may take time for the complaints to come in as the use of substandard fuel could result in systemic damage,” a senior CPC official said.
The official said that despite two separate tests being carried out on the shipment which arrived from Singapore on July 17, they failed to detect that the fuel was substandard.
“What is dangerous is that similar stocks would come in the future and they may go undetected. Such stocks entering the market could cause damage to vehicles. We will have to ensure that we have the technology to detect any substandard fuel,” he said.
A three-member committee headed by Petroleum Ministry Secretary R.H.S. Samaratunga is due to submit its report on the latest fuel scam next week. This is the third case where substandard fuel has been imported by the CPC. In the first instance contaminated petrol was distributed in June 2011 causing damage to about 5,000 vehicles. In May this year 7,500 tons of substandard kerosene were imported.
Vitol in a statement refuted the allegation that the cargo of diesel supplied on July 24 was responsible for the reported incidents of damage to vehicles and machinery.
The statement said:
“The cargo in question was tested in accordance with international testing standards by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation’s (CPC) own inspectors before it was discharged. It was found to be fully in conformity with all the required contractual specifications, as confirmed in the Certificate of Quality issued by CPC to Vitol. The cargo in question was then discharged into a shore tank containing product from one of CPC’s other suppliers (as confirmed by CPC’s discharge reports) and was mixed with that other product before being introduced into the local supply chain. Contamination could have occurred at any of a number of points between the terminal and the end consumers. We assume the investigation taking place will test every possible point of contamination to avoid further problems.
“We have seen no evidence to link the cargo supplied by Vitol with the reported incidents. The cargo supplied by Vitol came from a larger parcel of cargo which has been supplied to a number of Vitol’s customers in the region, where it has been consumed without incident and found to be fully on specification”.
“Vitol takes any allegations that it supplied contaminated product very seriously and rejects them in their entirety. We have sent a respected independent expert to Sri Lanka to assist in the investigation. CPC is a longstanding and greatly valued customer of the Vitol Group. In the last year we have won 22 tenders for the supply of petroleum products, including 15 cargoes of Diesel. All of those cargoes have been received in accordance with the required specifications and consumed without incident.”
Bad fuel: Ranil’s vehicles stall twice
Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s vehicles stalled twice last week after substandard fuel used in them caused damage to the filters.
The first incident occurred on July 26 at Kadugannawa on his way to Polonnaruwa while the second incident took place last Sunday at Eheliyagoda while returning from Ampara. His officials said that on both occasions filters had to be changed at the service centres.
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