Security has been beefed up at the Ogle Airport following the ramming open of a gate by a fuel tanker and several meetings are expected to address the serious civil aviation issues raised as the police continue a probe that will likely lead to charges.
Transport Minister Robeson Benn is expected to meet with the management of the Ogle Airport Incorporated and domestic carrier Air Services Limited (ASL) this week to discuss the recent incident and the ongoing fuel standoff. ASL has also scheduled a press conference for today
Benn told Stabroek News yesterday that he spoke to both parties by phone following the incident in which a senior official attached to the company allegedly rammed the main gate leading to the airport on Thursday evening after the company was refused entry into the compound by security officials.
Several concerns have been raised about the general security at the airport and the damage the issue may have on the reputation of the facility. Benn noted that in relation to security at Ogle, “they have their own security arrangements, so I don’t think we need to get involved with that”.
Director General of the Guyana Civil Aviation Autho-rity (GCAA), Zulficar Mohammed could not comment on the issue when reached yesterday. He had noted on Friday afternoon that he was unaware of the incident.
According to an aviation official, while the matter should engage the attention of the police, the implications which it would have on the security of persons who use the airport are many.
He explained that there have been concerns expressed among the local aircraft operators at Ogle following the accident about what consequences the incident could have brought, had the truck which was laden with fuel, exploded as a result of the ramming of the fence.
It was noted yesterday by sources at Ogle that the airport’s security systems have been beefed up while the managements of both parties were expected to discuss the issue in order to find an amicable solution.
According to reports reaching this newspaper, 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. Ogle Airport Inc (OAI), the management of the airport, noted that 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) on Friday, 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 on Friday, 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 pm, 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.”
Operations Manager at ASL, Annette Arjoon-Martins told Stabroek News on Friday that the company decided to import fuel from the United States, in accordance with ISO certification, to economise on the high cost.
The management of the airport noted in the press statement that in accordance with the 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.
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 then decided to import its own fuel.