Oil Tankers Association has called off its strike after a second round of talks were held between the Oil Tankers Association and OGRA in Islamabad today.
The stakeholders have agreed to form a committee comprising of representatives from all parties. Secretary petroleum and tankers association have also decided to increase freight of tankers and details are being finalized.
Citizens Become Collateral Damage
A severe crisis seemed to be brewing as most fuel stations in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, and Quetta, among other areas, had closed shop owing to the lack of supply and high demand.
Tourists in Gilgit-Baltistan and surrounding areas were stranded due to the fuel shortage as well as the halt in public transport vehicles, locals said.
Fuel stations across the country shut down after supply was halted when the All Pakistan Oil Tankers Association (APOTA) went on a strike against the government’s ‘unfair’ practices.
Talks Between Ministry & Tankers Association
Earlier, talks between the Ministry of Petroleum and representatives of All Pakistan Oil Tankers Association failed on Tuesday after they refused to comply with government orders pertaining to the use of substandard, unsafe vehicles for transportation of fuel.
Later, oil transporters announced that they would keep supplies suspended nationwide after their dialogue with high officials in Islamabad failed.
The transporters have been on a wheel-jam strike since Monday morning in protest against stricter implementation of oil transportation safety regulations introduced by OGRA in 2009.
The supply of petroleum products across the country has been affected by the strike, as the movement of nearly 23,000 oil tankers in the country remains halted.
In the Tuesday meeting, chaired by the secretary petroleum, the Oil Tankers Owners Association Chairman, Mir Muhammad Shahwani, demanded that the National Logistics Cell be abolished, lorries be allowed to pass through the Kohat tunnel and should be the only means of oil transportation to Peshawar. They asked that the current regulations system was to be continued and stricter laws would not be implemented while the tariff for lorries shall be increased.
Reasons Behind Failure During Talks
The reason cited for the failure of the negotiations was the refusal of the Oil Tankers Owners Association to budge from these demands and its insistence on continuing the protest till they were met.
The OGRA spokesperson, Imran Ghaznavi, rejected the demands saying that the authority will not be backed into a corner through “blackmail”. He also accused oil marketing companies of backing the strike behind the scenes.
“The tankers’ association is not licensed under OGRA; rather it is the oil marketers that are licensed by Ogra and they are now trying to evade the law through this strike,” Ghaznavi said.
“The oil marketing companies have not been following OGRA’s safety regulations,” Ghaznavi added, stating that multiple letters sent to the companies by OGRA in this regard had yielded no response.
“These companies want to play with people’s lives, but OGRA will ensure that this does not happen,” he said.
Ghaznavi clarified that the government wants to resolve the matter but would only do so through civilised discussions. “Threats will not work,” he warned.
We are ready to hold a dialogue with the marketing companies and will try and hold a discussion with them soon.
The secretary petroleum also wants to resolve the matter, but he has stated that legal action can be sought against oil marketing companies in case of continued non-compliance.
Background of the Whole Event
The strike was announced days after OGRA fined Shell Pakistan Limited for failing to meet safety benchmarks and held it responsible for the Ahmedpur Sharqia incident.
OGRA had hired the services of two separate third-party inspection companies to ascertain whether Shell had complied with the 2009 Ogra technical standards for the transportation of petrol and to identify the reasons for the tragic accident in Ahmedpur.
Sources said that the ill-fated tanker did not even meet safety and transportation standards of the company itself, let alone OGRA’s 2009 technical standards.
When issuing the fine, the regulator had also estimated that around 85 per cent of oil tankers do not comply with the prescribed standards. Now the oil industry, fearing reprisals, has been lobbying against any punitive action and asking for a long two year grace period.