Saturday, August 13, 2011

Georgetown, Guyana: Aviation fuel controversy fuels Ogle Airport gate-ramming. Air Services Limited tanker rams airport gate in fuel standoff

The damaged Ogle Airport main gate

Controversy over the source of aviation fuel being used by the domestic carrier, Air Services Limited (ASL), deepened, resulting in the main gate to Ogle Airport being rammed by a fuel tanker on Thursday night

Police are probing a report that one of ASL’s principals used one of the tankers and rammed open the gate around 8:30 PM after the security refused entry on grounds that the tanker and a Canter truck had contained smuggled fuel.

Ogle Airport Incorporated (OAI) insisted that the fuel must first be certified locally before it could be used by aircraft but an ASL official said the fuel imports were approved by the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA).

Director General of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Zulfikar Mohammed said his agency certifies the fuel farms at Ogle and Cheddi Jagan International Airport while the GEA approves the quality of the fuel.

An ASL official said OAI had long approved the use of two tankers when that carrier had once purchased aviation fuel from Caribbean Aviation Maintenance Services (CAMS).

The ASL official said the ISO-certified fuel is being imported from the United States much cheaper than what CAMS is selling for. The fuel is said to be brought to Guyana in containers and then emptied into tankers.

OAI spokesman, Kit Nascimento, however, charged that ASL was taking unauthorized fuel on the airport although the entity had been written to one day before.

“We discovered that ASL is bringing into the airport unauthorized aviation fuel, apparently for use in their aircraft. They have been actually smuggling it in at night,” he added.

But ASL charged that the Correia’s want to continue enjoying their virtual monopoly by being owners of a domestic carrier, Trans Guyana Aviation, CAMS, a security company and majority shareholders of OAI.

ASL’s lawyer, Glenn Hanoman insisted that there is no question about the quality of the fuel because it is being imported in sealed ISO-standardized containers and also tested by GEA.

He maintained that although GEA tested and approved the fuel, the Customs Anti Narcotics Unit (CANU) Tuesday night around 9 O’clock intercepted trucks and detained the drivers. They were, however, released around midnight after GEA assured that the fuel was not smuggled.

Hanoman explained the gate was rammed open because “they can’t prevent anyone from entering their property.”

The lawyer charged that CAMS on Thursday refused to supply ASL with fuel, a move he said was aimed at crippling the airline and passengers switching to Trans Guyana Airways.

He explained that ASL was granted permission by GEA to ferry the fuel after 5 PM Thursday.

CAMS, he said, fears losing at least GUY$15 million monthly in fuel sales because ASL has resorted to importing its own fuel. Roraima Airways does not purchase fuel from CAMS because of the high prices, instead preferring to do so from another supplier at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri.

A fuel standoff between Ogle Airport Incorporated (OAI) and Air Services Limited (ASL) climaxed when a senior official of the airline rammed a fuel tanker through the padlocked airport gate on Thursday and the police are investigating the matter.

According to reports reaching this newspaper yesterday, at around 6:30pm on Thursday the driver of a fuel tanker, followed by a canter truck, approached the main gate leading to the airport and he was stopped by airport security. He was informed that he could not enter the environs of the airport by security and a senior official attached to the airline arrived at the scene. After a delay and heated argument between the official and security, the latter took control of the tanker and drove into the padlocked gates at the airport while the driver of the canter drove behind.

The standoff has its genesis in the supply of fuel to aircraft at Ogle.

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