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28.03.2005 Disaster

Top Officials hold conference on Tema fire disaster

By GNA

Tema, March 28 GNA - Professor Mike Ocquaye, Minister of Energy on Monday stated that the nation needs a Strategic Fuel Reserve that could last for a longer period to serve consumers in time of fuel crisis. A venture of this nature would require enough funds from both government and Ghanaians, "that is why it is not strange that people should be made to pay good money for fuel", he remarked.

He was answering questions from newsmen as to whether the nation has enough fuel in stock, at a news conference held at Tema on the fire outbreak at the PSC Tema Shipyard, which has for now claimed 15 lives and engulfed the MV Polaris, a Togolese registered vessel and other vital national installations, rendering them unserviceable.

The conference, which was addressed by Professor Christopher Ameyaw-Akumfi was to inform the public about the disaster and efforts being made to bring situations to normalcy as well as announce names of the committee formed to look into the cause and find solutions. Prof. Ocquaye said Officials of Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) have met with experts to inspect the damaged facilities and offer advice as to whether they could be repaired or relocated, adding that work has already started to clear the debris in the area.

Installations affected were the TOR pumping station and pipeline, VALCO conveyor belt, VRA pumping house and other adjoining companies--the Kiku Cold Store and Dolphins Shipping Companies.

He allayed the fears of the public that the nation could be plunged into fuel crisis because, "we have enough stock to last for about seven weeks, while arrangements are in place to avert crisis." Dr. Kofi Kodua Sarpong, Managing Director of TOR said the Residual Fluidised Catalytic Cracking (RFCC) Unit, has already started producing 240 tonnes of gasoline a day.

He said=3D: "we have 109,000 tonnes of crude oil to take care of the immediate needs, while efforts are underway to take another 30,000 tonnes of gas oil from VITOL Oil Company, a British Oil Trading Company through Togo to serve the Central and Western Regions."

Prof. Ameyaw-Akumfi announced that a seven-member committee under the chairmanship of Nana Owusu Nsiah, immediate past Inspector General of Police has been formed to look into circumstances leading to the disaster and find solutions to avert future occurrences.

He said the committee, which has two weeks to submit its report is to investigate the cause of the fire incident, assess the extent of damage, examine the implications and make recommendations for action and future guidance.

The members are Commander Moses Beick from the Ministry of Harbours and Railways, Mr William Mensah of the Ghana Fire Service and Mr H. A. L. Mbeah from the National Security.

The rest are Dr M. Apiagyei-Gyamfi, Director of Petroleum, Commodore Mathew Quarshie, Ghana Navy and Mr Ato Ewusie Wilson, who is member/secretary.

The Minister urged the public to cooperate with the committee to ensure that a thorough job is done.

He commended the efforts by workers of TOR for acting expeditiously that fateful day to prevent the fire from spreading to damage the refinery and areas beyond and expressed the nation's condolence to the bereaved families.

Among those present at the meeting were Mr Dan Botwe, Minister of Information, a Representative of the Ministry of Interior, Mr Ben Owusu Mensah, Director General of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Mr Gordon Anim, Director of Tema Port and the Security.

On Good Friday, the vessel which was undergoing repairs at the PSC Tema Shipyard's Slipway adjacent to the TOR pipeline and VALCO conveyor belt was involved in the fire outbreak.

It was allegedly caused by fire sparks from welding works on the vessel which generated flames upon contact with oil slick from the TOR pipeline.

So far it has claimed 15 lives and damaged properties.

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