Tanker rips through Ogle Airport gate
…as management, charter company clash over fuel purchases
By Leonard Gildarie
A senior official of Air Services Limited (ASL) reportedly used a fuel tanker to rip open the gates of Ogle Airport on Thursday evening, as a clash between management and the operators of a local aircraft company over fuel purchases took on serious proportions.
Government has since announced that it will be meeting with both the management of ASL and Ogle Airport Inc. (OAI) to diffuse a potentially volatile situation.
Both parties had differing accounts of what occurred, with ASL making no mention of the gate incident in a statement it issued. The gates were unable to close, with one mangled section lying on the ground.
The police, Customs-Anti Narcotics Unit (CANU) and Guyana Energy Authority were said to have become involved in the matter.
There have been tensions between ASL and the airport management for sometime now; after the latter stopped what it said was illegal construction by the charter company.
According to the airport in a release yesterday afternoon, on Tuesday night, around 22:00hrs, security intercepted and stopped a fuel supply tanker found to be bringing aviation fuel onto the airport for delivery to ASL.
Both GEA and CANU were informed and took possession of the fuel tanker and confirmed that the tanker was carrying aviation fuel. The airport maintained that the fuel was not authorized for use at that facility.
It was explained that according to the airport’s operations manual, approved by the Director-General of the Civil Aviation Authority (DGCAA), “only those companies approved by OAI and the DGCAA as fuel-handling agents at Ogle Regional Municipal Airport may engage in the handling, receiving, storing and dispensing of fuel”.
This approval had only been given to Caribbean Aviation Maintenance Services Limited (CAMSL) and Rubis West Indies, in accordance with internationally established regulations and standards, OAI said in the release.
CAMSL owns and operates a fuel farm at Ogle Airport as a contracted fuel handling and dispensing agent for Rubis West Indies, ensuring that all the requisite filtration and safety and quality control measures are in place.
OAI said that on Thursday it wrote ASL reminding them of the fuel purchasing regulation “and informing ASL that ASL is not an approved fuel handling agent and is in violation of the airport’s regulations by bringing aviation fuel onto the Airport and that ASL will not be permitted to bring any more aviation fuel onto the airport.”
The airport said that “in defiance” of the notice, a fuel tanker and Canter truck sought permission to enter the airport at around 18:30 hrs.
“The drivers of the vehicles identified the fact that they were transporting aviation fuel for delivery to the ASL Hangar. The Airport’s Chief of Security ascertained from the drivers that they were not authorized by OAI’s management for delivery of aviation fuel to the Airport. The trucks were denied entry to the airport.”
The airport said that about 18:45hrs, a senior ASL official (name provided), arrived at the airport’s gate.
It was stated that the official, “boarded the fuel tanker and drove it into the padlocked airport gate, forcing entry into the airport, followed by the Canter truck. One of the airport’s security guards standing at the gate was forced to take evasive action to avoid being run over.”
The airport said that its security immediately reported the incident to the Sparendaam Police Station and investigators subsequently arrived to probe the incident.
It did not end there, the airport claimed.
“After the departure of the police, (the ASL official) later returned to the airport gate where he was exceedingly abusive and used threatening language to the airport’s security on duty.”
Yesterday, ASL issued its own statement but made no mention of the gate incident.
It explained that it is currently buying aviation fuel from CAMSL at Ogle which is costing $200 more per gallon than if purchased from Rubis out of Timehri.
“We approached CAMSL several times to discuss the possibility of a concessionary rate as we are their largest customer but this was unsuccessful. We met with Mr. Hudson Innis, the GM (General Manager) of Rubis Barbados as CAMSL is their agent at Ogle and also asked him to discuss with CAMSL the possibility of offering ASL a reduced price but this was not possible.”
ASL claimed that it subsequently discussed with Innis the possibility of sending ASL tankers to uplift fuel from RUBIS Timehri as each trip would save GY$450,000.
“…but were told this was not possible also. We then decided to import fully certified ISO containers of both avjet and avgas that meets all safety requirements from the US on a trial basis.”
This was done, the company explained, fulfilling all the regulatory requirements, with the first batch of fuel arriving in Guyana over the last weekend.
“The first two transfers of fuel by our tankers from Georgetown to Ogle went well but on the third trip our tanker and our staff were allowed entry into the aerodrome and then accosted in a high drama interception by the OAI and CANU security and taken to the Sparendaam police station but were later released as there was no grounds for them being held.”
On Thursday, ASL said that its driver was not allowed through the gates and was told that OAI management had issued this instruction.
The statement did not mention the gate-breaking incident but claimed that ASL was refused the sale of fuel by CAMS yesterday.
This fact was disputed by OAI’s spokesperson, Kit Nascimento, yesterday who said that the airport has evidence that ASL fueled planes there yesterday.
In its claim of CAMSL refusing to sell fuel, ASL said it is a legitimate operator at Ogle for the past 50 years and is also a major shareholder.
“We consume the largest amount of aviation fuel at Ogle and are CAMSL’s largest customer.”
ASL said it was only last month that CAMSL offered to increase their credit facilities.
“We spoke to Mr. Hudson Innis in Barbados this (yesterday) morning and briefed him of the situation, and the fact that his agent CAMSL is refusing to sell the largest aircraft operator fuel as of today, and he promised to look into the matter and get back to us. However, we were just told by Mr. Innis that Mr. Michael Correia is in a meeting and Mr. Innis has been unable to make contact with him.”
According to the charter company, Innis “made it clear that RUBIS will not support any action by CAMS to discriminate against ASL once ASL is a legitimate operator at Ogle.” ASL also said it has apprised the Ministry of Transport and the Government of Guyana of “this distressing matter as the transportation sector would suffer as a result of us having to shut down our operations.”
Yesterday, also, Minister of Transport Robeson Benn acknowledged that he is aware of the incident and said that there are meetings to resolve the issues.