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Malawi’s fuel tankers stuck in Tanzania

By Mandy Pondani:

There are fears of intermittent fuel supply in the country following reports that about 100 fuel tankers designated for Malawi have been stuck in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania for a month.

Malawi News has established that both of the country’s fuel importers – Petroleum Importers Limited (PIL) and National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma) – are responsible for the development as they do not have fuel volumes to be dispatched to the country.

However, authorities from the two institutions deny responsibility and are pointing fingers at their intermediary International Haulage Brokers (IHB) who coordinate all matters of fuel transportation.

“PIL and Nocma use IHB, apparently it is Nocma’s drivers who are stranded since it does not have a volume, that is why they are stuck,” said one of our sources on condition of anonymity.

But some of the drivers we have talked to say they are under PIL and have complained of various logistical challenges, accusing PIL of paying a blind eye and rendering a deaf ear to their plight.

One of the drivers who asked to be identified as Jacob wondered why it has in the last month that they have been stuck in the East African country been easy for their Tanzanian’s counterparts to have their tankers cleared at their [Malawians’] expense.

Jacob said in a telephone and later WhatsApp interview they suspect there could be a major logistical challenge which authorities are failing to come out clear on.

“Some of our friends have been here for about a month, to our surprise, our vehicles are always bypassed while our Tanzanian colleagues keep loading. As I speak, we have run out of basic necessities for our upkeep in this foreign land,” he said.

According to Jacob, there is hardly parking space at Malawi Cargo Centre in Dar es Salaam such that they have to dig deep in their pockets for parking fees elsewhere.

He said authorities at the centre do not allow them to use amenities such as toilets either.

“We are given K80,000 upkeep allowance. Which is usually for 10 days or less. As I speak, most of us exhausted the amount and we have nothing left to buy food and pay for accommodation. Need I say that the bosses do not give us money for parking fees, the allowances cater for all that,” Jacob said.

Another driver who asked for anonymity said, due to lack of parking space, some of the Malawian vehicles park as far as Morogoro, which is 100 kilometres away from the loading point, and Mlandizi which is 75 kilometres

But PIL Chief Executive Officer Enwell Kadango Wednesday doubted the stranded drivers went to collect their fuel volumes, further suspecting that there might have been communication breakdown between them and IHB.

“All matters to do with transportation are handled by IHB, it must be an issue of communication. Maybe some of them went there before they were told that the fuel was ready for dispatching,” Kadango said.

Nocma spokesperson Telephorus Chigwenembe refused to comment on the drivers’ situation in Tanzania saying the fuel importation they are using leaves all logistical arrangements including transportation to suppliers.

“We are not aware of the drivers’ predicament, at the moment, as Nocma, we are using Delivered Duty Unpaid method. The supplier is responsible for the fuel from the source up to the strategic fuel reserves in Mzuzu, Lilongwe and Blantyre. Whatever happens to the fuel, (e.g. theft or fire) once ownership has changed hands, is the supplier’s responsibility,” Chigwenembe said.

IHB General manager Chrispin Mussa has rubbished the drivers’ claims accusing them of impatience and wondered why they have not been in touch with his office.

He also ruled out fears that the country could be running out of stocks of fuel saying not all the fuel designated for Malawi is to be delivered by Malawian transporters.

“It is a once-off incident and it happens in operations to have hiccups somehow. And some of the Tanzanian tankers they are pointing fingers at are actually designated for Malawi, so, as a country, we are good, as I speak, some of the local drivers are on their way back,” Mussa said.

According to our investigations, ordinarily, the development can affect fuel supply in Malawi though the impact felt could depend on the number of tankers dispatched to Tanzania in a week or month and amount of fuel required in Malawi within the period that the drivers are stuck.

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