Septem­ber dead­line for LNG tanker ex­pires, ves­sel lo­cated near Ye­men just four days ago

Malta Independent - - NEWS - He­lena Grech

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.

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