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Philip Chong | Urgent fix needed for 'bad gas' - JGRA demands immediate implementation of reform committee recommendations

Published:Sunday | December 11, 2016 | 12:39 AM
Chong
The ongoing contractual issues between Rubis and its dealers is among the concerns of the JGRA.
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Anxiety, speculation and uncertainty, especially by the consumers, have determined that the bad gas saga is far from over.

One year later, there is no visible corrective element implemented to address the flaws that allowed unsuitable petrol to be dispensed to the public.

Public confidence is shot to pieces. Consumers are not sure if the problem is the petrol or with their vehicle. After an extensive investigation by the Petroleum Trade Reform Committee ( PTRC ), 38 recommendations were submitted by the committee, which were tabled in Parliament. However, only 18 were chosen for immediate implementation.

The Jamaica Gasolene Retailers Association (JGRA) called for the submission of the PTRC recommendations to Parliament because we believe that with its full implementation that this would correct the anomalies and stabilise the trade.

More recent pronouncements have been made in The Gleaner and the electronic press concerning reoccurrences of the 'bad gas.'

The Sunday Gleaner of December 4, 2016 carried two articles articulating the lack of proper maintenance at the service stations as it relates to the storage of petroleum, and thus alluded that this shortcoming could have contributed to the contaminated fuel saga in the latter part of 2015 and continuing into early 2016.

 

BAD STORAGE ACCUSATIONS

 

The JGRA rubbishes these assumptions and points out that the bad gas contamination source was not water and could not by any stretch of the imagination affect the trade islandwide.

All the petroleum storage facilities at most of the service stations are maintained by the relevant marketing companies and not the retailers. All retailers who are members of the JGRA and most affiliates of the marketing companies, whether local or international, subscribe to the best practices in the receival, storage and dispensing of petroleum, and have been doing this for years and are now subjected to speculations because of the non-closure of the debacle.

Another recent article called for regulations in the petroleum industry and echoes the JGRA's call to regulate by legislation not only on the importation of petroleum but the contractual conditions between the marketers and the retailers.

While an article by Howard Hamilton in The Sunday Gleaner of November 27, 2016 speaks primarily to the control of importation, he alluded to the many marketing licences that have been issued.

Twenty-one to date compared to three at the pre-deregulation period. There are now eight importers as to one in the same period.

 

SETTING OWN STANDARDS

 

Jamaica should set our own standards now as the paradigm has shifted from the expertise of the multinationals. Should we not implement these standards now, chaos will reign, as it did in November-December 2015 and again in November 2016 when an illegal LPG filling facility had a fatal explosion.

The JGRA's call for regulation on the contractual relationship between the marketing companies and the retailers stems from the constant battles between them. The terms of these contracts are unacceptable and the disagreement has been recently highlighted in the press.

These battles are decades old and have disrupted the trade and inconvenienced the public on too many occasions. A few examples are:

- Most recently, there has been ongoing contractual issues between Rubis and its dealers.

- The JGRA is currently observing a disparity in contractual clauses between Petcom and several of its dealers.

- The JGRA is advocating for the rights of one of its embattled members, Mic-Mar Traders Service Station. After more than 18 years of positive development growth at his service station he is being asked to vacate the business without goodwill. Goodwill is a central issue and has been recognised by civil institutions such as the Fair Trading Commission and is embraced by the PTRC in its recommendations.

It is beyond comprehension why Jamaica has not seized the opportunity to stabilise an industry that literally fuels our economy. The 38 recommendations which have been submitted, if implemented, could undoubtedly stem the degradation which exists, and improve and return confidence to the petroleum trade.

The trade, importation, blending, transportation and retailing can be harmonised as the recommendations will ensure good governance, stewardship along the chain and enhance the relationship between the relevant players to provide quality product and services.

The JGRA is strongly advocating that the full 38 recommendations are implemented immediately and compensation delivered to the people to avoid -

- Philip Chong is the president of the Jamaica Gasolene Retailers Association. Feedback: editorial@gleanerjm.com