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. OAI says only authorised suppliers can be used according to the operations manual of the airport, while ASL says it is importing fuel cheaper than that provided by the authorised suppliers.
According to a release issued by the management of the airport, OAI Airport Incorporated (OAI) yesterday, at approximately 10 pm on Tuesday, OAI intercepted and stopped a fuel supply tanker found to be bringing aviation fuel onto the airport for delivery for ASL.
The OAI statement said that the fuel was not authorised for use at the Ogle Airport and that the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) and the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) were informed of the situation and took possession of the fuel tanker and later confirmed that the tanker was carrying aviation fuel. In a statement yesterday, ASL said that its employees were questioned in this matter at the Sparendaam police station but were later released as there were no grounds for holding them.
The OAI release stated that on Thursday there was another incident which led to the ramming of the gate. It said that on that date, Ogle Airport’s management had written ASL referring it to the rules and regulations governing fuel handling and related matters and advised ASL that it was not an approved fuel handling agent and was in violation of the airport’s regulations by bringing fuel onto the airport. ASL was then advised that it would not be permitted to take more aviation fuel onto the airport.
OAI said that inspite of this, a fuel tanker and a canter sought permission to enter the airport at 6.30 pm that day and this was denied after the Airport’s Chief of Security ascertained from the drivers of the vehicles that they were not authorized to deliver.
OAI said that “At about 6:45 p.m, Capt. Mazahar Ally, Managing Director of ASL, arrived at the Airport’s gate. Capt. Ally boarded the fuel tanker and drove it into the padlocked Airport gate, forcing entry into the Airport, followed by the Canter truck. One of the Airport’s security guards standing at the gate was forced to take evasive action to avoid being run over.
“The Ogle Airport security immediately reported the incident to the Sparendaam police station. The police subsequently visited the Airport and conducted investigations.” Captain Ally could not be reached by Stabroek News for comment on the incident.
Operations Manager at ASL Annette Arjoon-Martins told Stabroek News yesterday that the company decided to import fuel from the United States, in accordance with ISO certification, to economise on the high cost. She said that the fuel arrived in the country a few days ago and the airline began transferring same to its operations at Ogle three days ago.
In a press release issued late yesterday by the airline, it was noted that the first two transfers of fuel by tankers operated by the company from Georgetown to Ogle went well but on the third trip (Tuesday) “our tanker and our staff were allowed entry into the aerodrome and then accosted in a high drama interception by the OAI and CANU security and taken to the Sparendaam police station.” The ASL staff was later released as there were no grounds for them being held, the company noted.
The management of the airport, however, noted in its statement yesterday that in accordance with Ogle Airport Operations Manual, approved by the Director General of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), “only those companies approved by OAI and the DGCAA as fuel handling agents at Ogle Regional Municipal Airport may engage in the Handling, Receiving, Storing and Dispensing of fuel.”
The statement continued that all the fuelling operations at the aerodrome are conducted by the Caribbean Aviation Maintenance Services Ltd. (CAMSL) and Rubis West Indies, in accordance with internationally established regulations and standards.
CAMSL are the authorised agents of Rubis West Indies, who are the authorised suppliers of aviation fuel products to Ogle Airport. Caribbean Aviation Maintenance Services Ltd. owns and operates a fuel farm at Ogle Airport as a contracted fuel handling and dispensing agent for Rubis ensuring that all the requisite filtration and safety and quality control measures are in place.
Rubis West Indies are responsible for conducting inspections for all aircraft fuel servicing facilities at the Airport, the statement read.
ASL however, said that it is committed to keeping air transportation costs affordable and recognised that by addressing the continuously increasing fuel prices this can be achieved.
ASL stated that it is presently purchasing aviation fuel from CAMS at Ogle, which is costing $200 more per gallon than if same was purchased from Rubis out of Timehri. The company stated that it approached CAMS several times to discuss the possibility of a concessionary rate as it is aware that it is CAMS’ largest customer, but the move was unsuccessful.
It was noted that the company subsequently discussed with Mr Innis of Rubis the possibility of sending its tankers from Ogle to uplift fuel from RUBIS Timehri as each trip would save $450,000 but it was told this was not possible. The ASL statement said that the company then decided to import its own certified fuel of both avjet and avgas type that meets “all safety requirements from the US on a trial basis.”
The management of CAMS has, meanwhile, refuted reports by the management of ASL that the former had refused to sell fuel to the airline. In a letter, released by OAI, addressed to Arjoon-Martins, Director of Maintenance of CAMS, John Isaacs stated that the ASL staff who made the claim may have misunderstood the responses he received from a CAMS staff yesterday.
The letter stated that after CAMS was made aware that ASL had sourced its own fuel supply, the issue raised liability concerns in the case of ‘Co-Mingling’ of product over which “we have no quality control and accordingly we needed to seek advice from our supplier RUBIS which was done later yesterday morning.”
The matter was addressed with RUBIS and Isaacs stated that ASL was later informed that the latter could resume purchasing fuel from the supplier as long as there was no product in the vessels which were uplifting the fuel.
Late yesterday afternoon, this newspaper was told that the gates leading to the airport were reinforced with steel barriers while a metal rod with spikes was also placed at the gates as an additional security measure.
Meanwhile, taxi operators at Ogle noted yesterday that the incident was not good for the reputation of the airport. A taxi driver said that the operators of the airline and the management of the airport should seek to “sort out their problems amicably.”
The management of the airline and the airport have been at odds over the past several months and the stormy relationship took a turn for the worse after the airport’s management refused to grant the airline the go-ahead to carry out construction works at its base at Ogle, citing non-compliance with the approved plan for the development of Ogle. The cease- work order still stands.