Ticking Time bomb! - Hundreds of lives at risk as criminals steal gasolene from moving tankers
Thousands of persons who travel on Marcus Garvey Drive in the Corporate Area on a daily basis face a real danger, as some desperate young men steal petrol from moving tankers in the vicinity of the Petrojam Refinery.
The young men can be seen at odd hours of the day skipping and weaving through traffic, buckets in hand, as they race alongside the tankers, feverishly opening valves to drain out whatever petrol is left in the lines of the vehicles as they enter the refinery for filling.
With the extremely flammable nature of the petrol, a single spark could cause a fire and the explosion of the tanker, which could then affect the nearby gas station, the refinery and anyone in the area.
"It is dangerous; because somebody can be smoking right there, the cars can be driving for long time and have hot exhaust; or a car might be defective, and if it is defective and the exhaust is broken close to the manifold and you have fire coming out of the engine, that could be a fire hazard also," noted Dr Noel Brown, head of the School of Engineering at the University of Technology.
"It is a dangerous practice and should not be encouraged," warned Brown.
Recently installed general manager of Petrojam, Howard Mollison, is well aware of the danger caused by this illegal practice.
According to Mollison, Petrojam has made the police aware of the illegal and dangerous daily occurrence.
"It has been going on for some time, and the police are aware of it and, in fact, they have conducted operations out there from time to time to prevent it," Mollison told The Sunday Gleaner.
"This happens on the public thoroughfare and that is outside of our jurisdiction. But recognising the risk to our business, the general public and the tanker drivers, we are the ones that quite often initiate the action from the police," added Mollison, as he indicated his concern about the risk being posed to the refinery, the general public using the roadway and the tanker drivers and their assistants, as well as to the individuals who are stealing the gasolene.
"In terms of the dangers that kind of activity poses, first of all, it is a risk to the people carrying out the activity themselves," said Mollison.
"They stand the chance of creating a fire, and one can have a full appreciation of a fire of that nature; you run the risk of causing an explosion in terms of the tanker itself, and the impact that it will have on the persons operating the tanker and anybody passing in the general vicinity of where you have a fire of that nature.
"Plus, the gas station and refinery are right there, and there is also the potential of incremental exposure and damage and, in fact, it could be quite catastrophic," noted Mollison.
The Petrojam general manager further noted that any form of interaction between metal and concrete, or metal and metal, can create a spark that could ignite.
"So an accident or somebody throw a cigarette butt out of a car, or you can have somebody smoking a cigarette. It is ridiculous to the point where somebody saw somebody out there smoking a (ganja) spliff while stealing the gas."
When our news team visited the area last week, two of the men seen stealing the petrol from one of the tankers in the middle of the day were covered from head to toe with gasolene.
This places them at great health risk associated with exposure to the gasolene over a prolonged period of time, even as they expose scores of Jamaicans to a clear and present danger.
But the young men argued that they had to take the chance because it is their only means of survival.
"Some way or the other wi have to look it. Wi nah go grab nutten and mek no police kill wi," said one young man as he sought to justify the illegal and dangerous activity.
"More while, wi get all a one bucket or a half bucket fi di day, but it add up," he added, as he disclosed that stolen petrol is sold just across the road from the refinery, with a five-gallon bottle going for $2,000.
Mollison charged that those who purchase the stolen fuel are just as culpable as the bandits.
"Persons must realise how dangerous it is to purchase fuel in that manner, and also clearly that it cannot be fuel that is obtained legally that is being disposed of in that way," said Mollison.
"And persons who purchase accordingly must recognise that they are also breaking the law; they are receiving the stolen property."