Liberia – ‘Just a Minor Delay’: S. Leone Did Not Deny Entry of Tankers on Emergency Mission for Gas
Monrovia – Some high-level arrangements were reportedly made prior to the dispatch of some 20 tankers to next-door Sierra Leone Tuesday night in search of gasoline to address the major shortage now wreaking havoc for motorists and consumers in Liberia.
A senior government official, speaking on condition of anonmity Wednesday dismissed social media reports that government of Sierra Leone had refused entry of the 20 tankers en route to Sierra Leone for emergency supply of gasoline. “It is just a minor delay. There was a high-level arrangement before the trucks left for the border,” the source told FPA.
The source said efforts are ongoing to finalize paperwork with border authorities in Sierra Leone to allow the passage of the tankers.
Explanation regarding the shortage have come in all forms with the government agencies responsible for the shortage providing conflicting information.
On Monday, the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company said that the rescheduling of vessels at the National Port Authority was the prime reason for the delay and inconvenience to the public. Last week, both the NPA and the Ministry of Commerce pointed the shortage to the failure to dredge the port.
The LPRC now says due to the rescheduling of vessels, it anticipated resolving the unforeseen shortage of gasoline within ten to fourteen days. “Withing this period, we will experience shortage of gasoline on the Liberian market,” the LPRC said.
“The government now, we are working with some of the importers so that as early as within the next 24 to 48 hours maximum, we can have emergency gasoline come into the country. We are using various sources – I’m saying working with importers because the government traditionally is not the one to import fuel into the country. So, some of our neighboring countries, have partnerships with some of the importers here – so we are using that route. We are also using other countries that are closed by to bring fuel – on an emergency basis.”Mr. Lenn Eugene Nagbe, Minister of Information, Culture Affairs and Tourism
The LPRC, in a statement expressed regrets over the current scrambling for petroleum products, mainly gasoline amid long lines at gas and filling stations and widespread shortages prompted by rescheduling of vessels at the NPA. “The Liberian government through the LPRC is informing the Liberian people; our valid consumers and the general public that we are doing everything to resolve this unfortunate crisis that our beloved country and people are currently experiencing. The supply of petroleum products, mainly gasoline will be stabilized shortly; therefore, we are appealing to our citizens, our valued customers and the general public to continue to exercise the patience they have exhibited during these challenging times.
Late Tuesday night, FPA gathered that about 20 gasoline tankers left Monrovia en route to Sierra Leone in hopes of getting gasoline to help curb the ongoing shortage of the key commodity in the country.
A FrontPageAfrica correspondent in the Bo Waterside area counted some 20 trucks moving toward Sierra Leone Tuesday night and a senior administration official confirmed on condition of anonymity that the trucks were headed to Sierra Leone.
The same source said the government is expecting two vessels in on Sunday but said it is not sure whether that is definite.
Dredging, which has been blamed for the shortage, commenced late last week, focusing the main entrance of the port.
FPA has gathered from viewing of port records that the port was dredged in 2017 by Nordsee Dredging International, a subsidiary of Dredging Environment Marine International (DEME Group). Four years earlier, in 2012, another company, Van Oord dredged the port.
In 2017, Nordsee, a Norwegian company, dredged the entrance channel, harbor basin, and the quay side of the FUF(fuel unloading facility).
FPA reported this week that the current dredging being done is only for the entrance channel which has been sub-contracted to Van Oord by an unnamed company, FPA has not been able to determine as this report went to press.
The latest report of trucks making their way to Sierra Leone, comes amid growing concerns that the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change government which had been planning a retreat set for Saturday is now contemplating putting the retreat off out of fear that the turnout may be low due to the shortage of gasoline in the country.
Late Tuesday, the Ministry of Information, Culture Affairs and Tourism, acknowledged what has been feared for weeks. “The Government of Liberia empathizes with the public for the difficulty they have had to go through over the last couple of weeks in obtaining petroleum products from stations across the country. Due to the shortage of gasoline, in many instances, people are made to stand in long queues for several hours before getting served,” the statement noted.
President George Weah on Monday named a special Taskforce, headed by Trokon Kpui, Minister of State Without Portfolio, to investigate and establish what caused an estimated 60 percent discrepancy between importers’ inventory reports of products at the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC) and actual stock of products at its petroleum storage facilities. The task force mandate will cover the period between January 2017 and January 2020.
As motorists continue to pile up at filling stations, the government through information minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe, appearing on state radio, LBS Wednesday morning said that the government is expecting an emergency supply of gasoline within the next 24 to 48 hours.
It is unclear whether those expectations are linked to the 20 tankers making its way into Sierra Leone. But Minister Nagbe said all options are being explored.
“The government now, we are working with some of the importers so that as early as within the next 24 to 48 hours maximum, we can have emergency gasoline come into the country. We are using various sources – I’m saying working with importers because the government traditionally is not the one to import fuel into the country. So, some of our neighboring countries, have partnerships with some of the importers here – so we are using that route. We are also using other countries that are closed by to bring fuel – on an emergency basis.”