A fuel crisis has been averted for now, even though a PDVSA tanker is in the harbour waiting to unload. It is claimed that government owes PDVSA, but that allegation has been refuted. Since Tuesday, nine overland tankers laden with some seventy-two thousand gallons of regular fuel have been arriving via the western border. A road block at Melchor de Mencos on the Guatemalan side was lifted to allow the passage of the tankers. While seven successfully made the delivery to PUMA’s fuel depot in Belize City, two were involved in a rear-end collision on the George Price Highway overnight. Alarm bells sounded because of the volatility of the freight, prompting the Department of the Environment to spring into action. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.
Duane Moody, Reporting
This morning, traffic was diverted to back roads in Cotton Tree Village as the scene of a traffic accident was being processed by technicians from the Department of Environment, Puma representatives and firefighters. Around eleven o’clock on Tuesday night, a fuel truck carrying gasoline collided into another at the pedestrian crossing at mile forty-two on the George Price Highway in front of the primary school in the village.
Kenrick Gordon, Environmental Technician, DoE
“We got a call from the personnel from Puma Energy Belize Limited indicating that there had been a collision on the George Price Highway near Cotton Tree Village. We went out there and we did confirm that there was in fact a collision between two tankers. We also confirmed that each of the tankers contained approximately eight thousand U.S. gallons of gasoline and we immediately…at the time, the Puma personnel were already on the ground ready to assist the department and the other agencies that had responded, which include the Fire Service, personnel from the Ministry of Works and from the Transport Department.”
Luckily, none of the sixteenth thousand U.S. gallons of gasoline were spilled, averting a possible explosion. Nevertheless, safety measures were taken to first pump the fuel into two other tankers before the trucks could have been removed from the highway.
“We cordoned off the area and we decided to divert traffic and we immediately contacted Leiva Services and they pumped the fuel from the trucks and they were then dispersed to the Puma facility. We then removed the two trucks from the road by hiring the contractor, I believe it’s Teichroeb and Sons, and that was basically it. There wasn’t any spillage of gasoline from the tankers itself, but there was just a minor spillage of engine oil on the ground. We cleaned it up using some oleophilic pads and spread some sad and remove it and clean the highway.”
Late last week, there was a demand for both diesel and regular gasoline at the pumps, but Puma Energy Bahamas S.A. stated on Tuesday that diesel and jet fuel inventories were normalized after having received a vessel over the weekend. But that was not the same for regular gasoline and another PDVSA vessel carrying that type of fuel was to be expected later this week. That vessel currently sits in Belize’s harbor waiting to be offloaded. News Five can confirm that at least one gas station in the city has been out of regular fuel. And to meet the demand, on Monday, Puma received approval for nine tankers of fuel to be imported from neighboring countries. Those permits are authorized by the Department of Environment for anything pollution-related, hydrocarbons and then forwarded to the Customs & Excise Department via the ASYCUDA system.
“They were at the western border from early in the morning and according to the personnel, there was a protest over on the Guatemalan side—not over fuel, but other issues in Guatemala—and this was the reason why they couldn’t pass. Normally we try not to have trucks filled with fuel or any Liquefied Petroleum Gas traveling late at night. Normally when you see them in those hours, they are normally empty. Just that there are protocols set between the Department and the company and they try to abide by them as much as possible based on the working time and things like that. We had done all that investigation and we feel that it was fair enough that the men could be driving the vehicles at the time.”
Seven of the tankers arrived at the Puma Depot on Caesar Ridge; the two other tankers were involved in the collision. It is believed that the accident stemmed from the fatigue of the drivers due to the delay in Guatemala and the late night traveling.
“Day before yesterday we issued permits for Puma to bring in nine tankers; these were the last two of that nine traveling the Belize City when the incident happened.”
“They were bringing regular gas, premium, diesel? What were they bringing?”
“Gasoline…only gasoline from what I understand, well from the permits that I looked at.”
The road was effectively cleared of all debris and engine oil spill around nine o’clock this morning. Duane Moody for News Five.