Concerns over Sale of Contaminated Fuel to Airlines

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Chinedu Eze

There are concerns that some fuel marketing companies might be selling contaminated fuel to airlines due to poor regulation.
The industry was alerted to this when two airlines discovered that their aircraft contained over 100 litres of water after they bought fuel from the same source last year and had to abort their flights, an incident that would have caused tragic accidents if the flights had taken off.

THISDAY investigation revealed that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), which closed the fuel depot after the incident and since then has intensified the monitoring of fuel marketers.

Before the incident however, NCAA had left the audit of fuel marketers to the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), which has the expertise to check the quality of products sold to airlines.

Spokesman of NCAA, Sam Adurogboye, told THISDAY that while DPR still audits the fuel marketers, the regulatory agency has also intensified the mentoring of the activities of fuel marketers after that incident and ensures that marketers do not come to the airport with contaminated fuel, adding that the regulatory authority has confidence in DPR because this is where they have expertise.

An industry official explained to THISDAY that NCAA regulates airlines and in the process regulates their fueling, but since it lacks the experience and resources to audit fuelers, it partners with DPR, noting that each fueler has the resources for continuous testing of its fuel to meet the given standards.

But aviation security expert and General Secretary of Aviation Round Table (ART), Group Captain John Ojikutu (retd) said bridging of fuel supplies to the airport was dangerous, disclosing that he had attempted to notify the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) about this but was met with stiff resistance.

Ojikutu said the NCAA has the responsibility of having oversight on the quality of fuel sold to airlines, noting that fuel marketers ought to dedicate the tankers they use for aviation fuel to the product, explaining that the product becomes contaminated when they use the same vehicle to lift other petroleum products.

However, THISDAY spoke to the CEO of CleanServe Integrated Energy Solutions Limited, Chris Ndulue, who said before now, the NCAA was not strongly involved in regulating the quality of fuel products sold to airlines. But he noted that the authority has intensified efforts recently.

“The regulation by NCAA is better now but in the past it was left for DPR because it has more competence to deal with it, but the most important thing is that there are many marketers that are coming up.
“This is because the entry barrier is low and DPR’s way of regulation is to visit the depot and issue it license; so what DPR does is depot licensing,” he added.

Ndulue said those marketers that do not have depot are not regulated and they could source that products from anywhere and bring it and sell to the airlines.

“If you don’t have depot, they won’t regulate you; so you may choose not to have depot and some airlines may not inspect the product before buying; however, DPR has started stepping up its regulation but still on those that have depot. They should subject everyone to their regulatory oversight. NCAA is also stepping up its regulatory responsibility, which was not strong before,” Ndulue said.

He stressed that for the regulation to be effective, the NCAA and DPR must have to carry the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) along because it is the agency that enforces the regulation and gives approval to the marketer that could have access to the ramp to fuel the aircraft.

“FAAN allows you to get into the ramp; it can stop you from getting into the ramp if you don’t have the right documentations. So FAAN is very important in the regulatory framework. Without FAAN’s involvement there will be a loophole in the process,” Ndulue said.

THISDAY also spoke to the airlines: Aero, Arik Air and Air Peace and they said they have multilayered checks on the quality of fuel they buy from marketers, especially since that incident of contaminated fuel happened.