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Licensing delays opening of Mzuzu fuel reserves

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The 10 million –litre Sonda Fuel Reserves constructed as a means of increasing the country’s fuel storage capacity awaits Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) licensing despite the facility’s completion.

Constructed by Apollo International Limited of India for the Malawi government through the National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma), the facilities are part of another 50 million – litre fuel reserves that are currently operational in Blantyre and Lilongwe.

But The Daily Times crew’s visit to the site on Tuesday revealed the Mzuzu facilities were still not in use despite the contractor finalising work.

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Nocma Communications Manager, Telephorus Chigwenembe, confirmed the facilities were not operational even though fuel tankers have started arriving at the reserves.

“Fuel tankers have started arriving at the strategic fuel reserves in Mzuzu but are not yet offloading fuel because we are waiting for a storage licence for the depot from Mera. Once we get the licence, we will start offloading fuel,” Chigwenembe said.

Though the reserves in Mzuzu, Chigwenembe said, will not be restricted to serve the six districts in the Northern Region, they have been strategically positioned to serve the region in times of fuel stress.

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Both the facilities in Lilongwe and Blantyre, according to Chigwenembe, are already stocking fuel.

“We have delayed offloading in Mzuzu because we had to put in place oil-water separators in the depot to prevent spilt fuel from getting out of the facility to the community. This is to ensure safety.”

“That has been done and so we are only waiting for Mera to assess the safety features so they can issue a storage licence for the depot,” Chigwenembe said.

But Mera spokesperson, Fitina Khonje, said the facility in Mzuzu had already been assessed and that on August 11, the authority resolved to hand Nocma an operation licence.

“They applied for a licence but they had to complete the drainage system first. Presently, a decision has been made that they can be granted a licence to start operating.

“Normally, when an application for a licence is made, we don’t just give it to them but we conduct an inspection to see if they have met all the requirements. In the case of Nocma, they have fulfilled everything, hence the decision to authorise them to start operations,” Khonje said.

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