September deadline for LNG tanker expires, vessel located near Yemen just four days ago
Despite No-Portfolio Minister Konrad Mizzi’s insistence that the LNG tanker was to arrive in Malta by the end of September, AIS tracking signal shows that three days ago it was still passing near Yemen – approximately half-way through its journey.
Yesterday being the last day of September, meaning that the deadline set by Dr Mizzi has now expired, the question now is when the tanker will realistically arrive.
It is the third time that a deadline set by the government has not been met. Labour had pledged before the election that the new power station would have been up and running by March 2015, but this deadline was later moved to June 2016. That day came and went but the power station was not in operation. The government then promised that the LNG tanker would have been in Malta by end September and, now, this deadline has not been met either.
While the tracking service normally gives to-the-minute current information on the location of such vessels, it could be that the tanker’s tracking device has been switched off due to security reasons, as was the case when it was passing by the Horn of Africa, an area known for piracy.
While Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Dr Mizzi travelled to Singapore on 1 August for a sailaway ceremony, the tanker’s departure was delayed for unknown reasons and it actually set sail on 12 September.
“All tests and works have been completed,” Dr Mizzi had said while addressing the press at the end of August, “and the tanker has been certified as safe and was developed according to design. Bumi Armada, the company managing it, together with Electrogas are following the sail away protocols. There are clear protocols which are stipulated for when a tanker needs to travel this distance. Coordination is being carried out between the three entities so that the tanker will arrive in September.”
Electrogas, the operators of the new Delimara power station, is in the process of installing contingency measures for the LNG tanker, also known as a Floating Storage Unit, for occasions when strong southern and south-easterly winds batter Marsaxlokk Bay, The Malta Independent reported.
Although the risk assessment studies connected to the new power station’s LNG floating storage unit have been kept under wraps, Electrogas project manager Catherine Halpin was forthcoming in her replies to this newspaper on the issue of contingency plans in the event of storms that are known to lash the bay.
The vessel is set to become a permanent fixture in Marsaxlokk Bay when it arrives here in the coming weeks. The conversion of the vessel was achieved in 17 months through the cooperation of the companies Bumi Armada, Electrogas Malta, and Keppel Shipyards in Singapore.