A truck transporting fuel to the Air Services Limited (ASL) base was denied access to the Ogle airport yesterday, as part of an ongoing row between the domestic airline and the airport’s management.
The ASL-owned truck arrived at the gates at Ogle around 11 am yesterday and the driver was told by security there that he needed to produce the relevant documentation in order to enter the airport surroundings.
The truck, laden with close to 6,000 gallons of aviation fuel, was parked in front of the gate for sometime before its engine malfunctioned. It was later placed at the corner of the roadway close to the entrance of the gate and the police were called in to monitor the situation. Two Thursdays ago, an executive of the airline, who was identified as Captain Mazahar Ally by Ogle management, proceeded to drive into the gates at Ogle after a stand-off with security escalated.
According to airport spokesman Kit Nascimento, the fuel truck driver was not allowed entrance since he had no relevant documentation. He said that the airport has “certain safety requirements” which are carefully spelt out as regards the use of fuel at the airport. He said that the airline, like other s operating at Ogle, “know they have to apply to the airport for the authority to bring fuel and use same.”
Nascimento also stated that ASL has not applied or written to the management of the airport for the requisite permission to date. “There are no objections to any operator using fuel, once it applies to airport management… a procedure has to be undertaken. ASL has not informed of its intentions,” he added.
ASL’s safety officer Fazal Khan stated that the airline was calling on the government to intervene as soon as possible in order to resolve the “stagnant” situation. He said that the management of the airport is calling on the airline to apply for a fuel handling agent certificate, “but we are saying we do not want to be an agent, but to use our own fuel.”
He added, “We do not have to get any document that they are requiring.” Khan said that if there were any requirement where the airline is concerned, “then that they have to issue that.”
ASL wrote the Caribbean Aviation Maintenance Services (CAMS), which is operated by the Correia’s, on several aspects of the matter, including operating as a fuel handler, Khan stated. “We have been handling fuel here for many years,” he explained, while adding that this practice was approved by OAI, including the refuelling of its own aircraft. “What more do they want? To apply for something that we already have?”
He stated bluntly that, “their manual is saying the only fuelling handling agent is CAMS, [and] what they need to do is change their manual.” He expressed hope that the matter does not escalate, while reiterating his call for the government to intervene urgently. “The responsibility is on the government. It has to maintain order in society and this needs to be addressed,” he noted.
Earlier this week, there was a similar stand-off at Ogle as another fuel tanker was left stranded at the gates leading to the airport for several hours. ASL staff noted yesterday that the security at the gates received a phone call, following which the company’s truck was allowed to proceed to the airline’s base.
The ongoing situation began two weeks ago, when the airline decided to purchase its own fuel from the United States to cut back on costs. The airline, which said its imported fuel was being handled in accordance with the relevant safety regulations, noted that it spends more than $80M per month on fuel purchases from CAMS.
Following the gate ramming incident, the airline and the management of the airport subsequently held separate meetings with Transport Minister Robeson Benn and those discussions were said to be fruitful, a source close to the airline noted. At the same time, little has been said as regards the actual crashing of the gates, and the police have remained mum as regards charges being laid against the airline representative for his role in driving the loaded fuel tanker into the gates of the international port of entry.