Fish­er­men still have no idea how they will be af­fected by LNG re­fu­el­ing op­er­a­tions

• 273-me­tre tanker sails briefly into Marsaxlokk but power sta­tion switch-on date re­mains elu­sive

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - ■ Neil Camil­leri

Marsaxlokk fish­er­men still have no idea whether they will be al­lowed to sail in and out of the bay when the gas stor­age tanker at De­li­mara is be­ing re­fu­eled by a se­cond ves­sel.

The Ar­mada LNG Mediter­rana sailed into Marsaxlokk early yes­ter­day morn­ing in what was de­scribed by Min­is­ter with­out port­fo­lio Konrad Mizzi as a “his­toric event.”

The 273-me­tre ves­sel has since sailed out to sea, where it will be car­ry­ing out fur­ther sea tri­als be­fore re­turn­ing to port later on this week. Dr Mizzi promised yes­ter­day that the rel­e­vant safety and mar­itime im­pact stud­ies will be pub­lished for pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion in the com­ing days.

But fish­er­men who spoke to this news­pa­per yes­ter­day said that a ques­tion that has been in their minds ever since the project was an­nounced more than three years ago re­mains unan­swered. “We have no idea how the re­fu­el­ing op­er­a­tion will af­fect us. We still have no idea whether the port will be closed. Will we be al­lowed to go out to sea?” one fish­er­man asked.

Another fish­er­man pointed out that a one-day de­lay could cost them a chunk of their in­come.

Elec­tro­gas yes­ter­day did not say when the first fuel delivery op­er­a­tion would take place, but said such op­er­a­tions would take place ev­ery eight weeks.

The Malta In­de­pen­dent also spoke to another fish­er­man who was star­ing cu­ri­ously at the LNG tanker from a sandy beach near the San Luċ­jan tower. Like the other two be­fore him, the man did not wish to be named. “I be­lieve that up to three fourths of the Marsaxlokk fish­er­men are against the project in its cur­rent form. But most are afraid to speak their minds and al­ways say they are in favour when TV news cam­eras are pointed at them. Some fear reprisals if they com­plain, in­clud­ing through the fish­eries depart­ment.” The man added: “This is not just the fish­er­men but the res­i­dents of

Marsaxlokk in gen­eral. Be­fore the election they had spo­ken about two on-shore tanks of 40,000 cu­bic me­tres, not this mon­stros­ity (the tanker.) The gov­ern­ment did not have a man­date for this.”

No date for power sta­tion com­mis­sion­ing

In the mean­time, the gov­ern­ment and Elec­tro­gas yes­ter­day failed to say when the power sta­tion will be­come op­er­a­tional and when the gas pipe­line be­tween Si­cily and Malta will be com­pleted.

Dr Mizzi was quizzed by jour­nal­ists af­ter he ad­dressed a press con­fer­ence near Fort De­li­mara, shortly af­ter the Ar­mada LNG Mediter­rana sailed in. “This is a his­toric event,” said Dr Mizzi, “for it marks the end of the use of Heavy Fuel Oil.”

The min­is­ter said con­struc­tion of the project is now com­plete. This in­cludes the con­ver­sion of half of the BWSC plant to run on gas. The ship – which is tech­ni­cally called a Float­ing Stor­age Unit – is only a tem­po­rary so­lu­tion, he said, and will no longer be used when the gas pipe­line project is com­pleted. But Dr Mizzi could not give a def­i­nite time­line, say­ing only that the ex­act un­der­sea route be­tween Si­cily and Malta will be iden­ti­fied by next year. He de­nied that the tanker would be used for “decades.”

The min­is­ter also failed to say when the power sta­tion will be­come op­er­a­tional. The project is al­ready one and a half years late – the orig­i­nal dead­line was March 2015. He said that once the IPPC per­mit was granted the power plant would start func­tion­ing.

Pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion

Dr Mizzi said the safety and mar­itime im­pact as­sess­ment stud­ies will be pub­lished in the com­ing weeks and will be put up for pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion. Asked by this news­pa­per why pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion on the stud­ies was only be­ing held now, af­ter the ship has sailed in, the min­is­ter in­sisted that the pub­lic had al­ready been con­sulted be­fore the plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion was is­sued. When we pointed out that no safety and mar­itime stud­ies had been pub­lished at that point, Dr Mizzi said some stud­ies had been avail­able at the time. “These stud­ies were re­viewed by the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties, in­clud­ing the OHSA and the Civil Pro­tec­tion Depart­ment,” he said.

Elec­tro­gas project man­ager Cather­ine Halpin said yes­ter­day’s tests were suc­cess­ful. “The ship ba­si­cally turned on a six­pence, as was pro­jected in the sim­u­la­tions.” She ex­plained that the ves­sel is still empty and will head back out to sea for more safety and sea tri­als. Peo­ple should be aware that there will be some ac­tiv­ity in the har­bour in the com­ing days, she said, ex­plain­ing that the ves­sel will re­turn to Marsaxlokk in a few days’ time. It will first be con­nected to the storm moor­ing, be­fore berthing along­side the jetty.

Pressed to say when the first LNG trans­fer would take place – the process will in­volve a se­cond tanker to fill up the FSU’s tanks – Ms Halpin said the pri­or­ity right now was to con­duct the safety tri­als. No date for the fuel trans­fer was given.

Asked about the bright light­ing sys­tem on the jetty, Ms Halpin said this was an op­er­a­tional ne­ces­sity and that nec­es­sary light im­pact stud­ies had been car­ried out.

Elec­tro­gas Malta CEO Franz Doe­fler said all com­po­nents of the project were un­der­taken by re­li­able in­ter­na­tional part­ners who had a very good safety track record. He said some 3.5 mil­lion man hours had been put into the project with only one in­ci­dent – at the Greek com­pany that built the re­gasi­fi­ca­tion unit. The worker made a full re­cov­ery, the CEO pointed out. “We hope to keep this track record,” he said, adding that “Elec­tro­gas cares about peo­ple and the en­vi­ron­ment.”

Konrad Mizzi also in­sisted that “the best engi­neers from around the world” were in­volved in the project and that all com­po­nents were “best of breed, best of class.”

Min­is­ter Mizzi could not give a def­i­nite time­line, say­ing only that the ex­act un­der­sea route be­tween Si­cily and Malta will be iden­ti­fied by next year

Min­is­ter Konrad Mizzi

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