Every other day, we hear an oil tanker has overturned on some road and thousands of liters spilled across the road leaving the passersby in danger. Our memory is fresh with the mass deaths which occurred due to the oil tanker’s overturn and ensuing fire near Ahmadpur East last year. The government of the time dished out compensation cheques and forgot the issue. Ensuring safety in oil transportation is a much-neglected issue despite the fact our oil marketing is a vibrant sector that is functioning efficiently to provide for the evolving needs of the individual as well as corporate clientele. Oil marketing companies (OMC) must take responsibility for ensuring uninterrupted petroleum products’ supplies across all parts of the country besides making sure that the highly flammable cargo doesn’t inflict harm to the lives and property of people.
No one takes responsibility for road crashes which kill or injure precious lives and inflict harm on the property; several crashes often involving oil tankers have been the most fatal. The flammable cargo on the vehicles if not handled properly can create havoc at the accident site. Such unfortunate crashes such as the Ahmadpur East and Rodo Sultan in Jhang incidents can be averted by ensuring following fuel hauling vehicles to stringent safety and security criteria and quality assurance at par with global standards. There is no structured data on accidents, it is, however, observed that a good number of accidents usually take place due to technical faults in oil tankers as 22 of the 70 accidents between January 2017 to March 2018 occurred due to avoidable technical faults in the vehicles.
The Pakistan State Oil (PSO) regulates country’s oil marketing sector. It coordinates with Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA), National Highways Authority and regulatory bodies to take up top regulations in safety and environmental protection in the transportation of petroleum products. Oil supplies are done through an efficient pipeline network, railways, and oil tankers’ fleet. Of these modes of transportation, the major portion of petroleum products is transported across the country through roads network.
Cargo’s safety on roads is the responsibility of regulatory bodies and OMCs and of them, OMCs employee oil tankers for rapid, cheap and convenient fuel transportation. OGRA’s technical standards for the petroleum industry – road transport vehicles, containers and equipment – plan the optimum quality standards and calibration of these vehicles, necessary for their smooth functioning as well as mitigating the risk of harm to life and property.
The regulatory authority’s paperwork in safety standards is meticulous as it has detailed all the requirements for the transportation fleets of OMCs, which would certainly enhance the overall quality of the fleet and improve public safety. The regulatory body has made it mandatory for the OMCs to optimize their transportation systems to meet these requirements.
The wide-range safety standards include safety features in the transportation vehicles, such as the necessary installation of fire extinguishers and fire glasses to correct calibration of weight and dimensions of the vehicles. It accounts for optimum performance and correct adjustment of various parts of the vehicles including engine, brakes, gearbox and clutch, steering, suspension, wheels, excels to weight ratio, load to weight ratio and more. Ensuring correct adjustment of all the essential parts of the vehicles hauling thousands of liters of flammable products would largely mitigate the risk of accidents, besides enabling the vehicle to function smoothly under varying geographic as well as weather conditions.
Side by side, the PSO, the leading OMC of the country with 54 percent of shares in the industry, supplies a range of fuel requirements of its individual as well as corporate clients including a number of large corporations. The PSO supplies a big chunk of the fuel through oil tankers and depends heavily on the agility of its road transportation system, consisting of around eight thousands oil tankers. The number shows that oil tankers on PSO fleet, do more than 1,000,000 consignments from different locations in the country with major which is transported from Mahmoodkot and Karachi to upcountry.
In the execution of the China-Pakistan Corridor (CPEC), the PSO’s oil tankers’ fleet will ensure safety and protection as in CPEC the fleets are to explore the market in China for CPEC projects which necessitate compliance to international standards. Now that the country’s overall socioeconomic conditions are improving, the future heralds bright prospects for Pakistan’s oil marketing sector. The sector can start gearing up to harness these prospects by equipping itself by the best infrastructure and transportation systems fully compliant with global standards. It would not only benefit them in the long run but foster safety and security and environmental protection to create a lot of value for the society.
It has yet to be seen if PSO is updating and modernizing its road transportation system by inducing the latest and state of the art transportation vehicles into its fleet. These vehicles support the most innovative and best in class safety and security features and therefore set a higher benchmark for the OMC sector of the country in safety of the crew and public on road.
Whenever the PSO tries to implement modern safety standards, oil tankers call strikes. Also, several people with nefarious designs and vested interest in oil supply network tried to fail the writ of the state by sabotaging the newly inducted vehicles in PSO’s fleet system. Around five of such incidents have been reported in recent weeks from Sindh where criminals attacked highly flammable fuel-laden tank lorries posing a direct threat to lives of commuters and people living in nearby areas of the attack locations. This is time for state authorities to play an active role against such criminal elements who want to take the oil transportation system in their own hands leaving the development of the economy and wellbeing of its people a hostage to their wishful anti-state thinking.