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Cities across the nation including the capital are being subjected to a shortfall of petroleum after the nationwide oil transporters’ strike developed into a crisis after a deadlock could not be resolved in a meeting on Tuesday between state officials and the All Pakistan Oil Tankers Association (APOTA), an umbrella organization for the oil transporters.

On July 24, APOTA launched a countrywide strike to protest against the revised safety regulations for oil tankers introduced by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) following the devastating Ahmedpur Sharqia incident, which had resulted in the death of 218 individuals.

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Failure of the negotiations stemmed from the refusal of the Oil Tankers Owners Association (OTOA) to make any concessions to its demands and insistence on continuing the protest till they were met.

The supply of petroleum products across the country has been affected by the strike, as the movement of nearly 23,000 oil tankers in the country has come to a stand still.

In the Tuesday meeting, chaired by the secretary petroleum, the OTOA Chairman, Mir Muhammad Shahwani, put forward the following demands:

The National Logistics Cell be abolished.

Lorries be allowed to pass through the Kohat tunnel.

Lorries be the only means of oil transportation to Peshawar.

The current regulations system be continued and stricter laws not be implemented.

The tariff for lorries be increased.

Failure of the negotiations stemmed from the refusal of the Oil Tankers Owners Association (OTOA) to make any concessions to its demands and insistence on continuing the protest till they were met.

Imran Ghaznavi, a spokesperson of Ogra, rejected the demands saying that the authority will not be backed into a corner through “blackmail”. He also accused oil marketing companies of supporting the strikers behind the scenes.

“The tankers’ association is not licenced under Ogra; rather it is the oil marketers that are licenced by Ogra and they are now trying to evade the law through this strike,” Ghaznavi stated.

“The oil marketing companies have not been following Ogra’s safety regulations,” Ghaznavi added, stating that multiple letters sent to the companies by Ogra in this regard had been ignored.

“These companies want to play with people’s lives, but Ogra will ensure that this does not happen,” he said.

Ghaznavi clarified that the government wants an amicable resolution to the matter but will only do so through civilized discussions. “Threats will not work,” he warned.

“We are ready to hold a dialogue with the marketing companies and will try and hold a discussion with them soon.”

“The secretary petroleum also wants to resolve the matter, but he has stated that legal action can be sought against oil marketing companies in case of continued non-compliance,” Ghaznavi said.

The strike was announced days after Ogra fined Shell Pakistan Limited for failing to meet safety benchmarks and held it responsible for the Ahmedpur Sharqia incident.

Ogra had hired the services of two separate third-party inspection companies to investigate whether Shell had complied with the 2009 Ogra technical standards for the transportation of petrol and to identify the cause of the tragic accident in Ahmedpur.

Sources have revealed that the ill-fated tanker did not even meet safety and transportation standards of the company itself, let alone Ogra’s 2009 technical standards.

The industry is pushing for a grace period of up to two years to allow tanker lorries and oil marketing companies to comply with regulatory standards

When issuing the fine, the regulator had also estimated that around 85 per cent of oil tankers do not comply with the requisite standards.

The oil industry, fearing reprisals, has been aggressively lobbying against any punitive action.

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The industry is pushing for a grace period of up to two years to allow tanker lorries and oil marketing companies to comply with regulatory standards and is surreptitiously giving the impression that extreme steps like a ban on non-compliant tankers would lead to product dry-outs.

A previous strike by oil tanker owners earlier this year had been the source of immense public inconvenience, especially in Karachi, where long queues of motorists and bikers were seen waiting for fuel outside many petrol stations.

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