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Aviation Fuel And Safety: Ogungbangbe Steps In, Berths In Nairobi

The exigency of air transportation, and survival reality of safety against accidental despair or omen that may compellingly result in flight delays, outright flight cancellations; and other issues in the airspace and blue chip airline investments in the aviation business propelled a section of the stakeholders in the aviation industry to a strategic business meeting, penultimate Thursday, away in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya.

Issues and challenges in aviation safety with particular attention to fuel tankering, said to be the practice of the aircraft, lifting more fuel than required by reducing or minimising refuelling at destination airports came under focus at the crucial meeting.

While threats posed to the airlines, impact on the economy and flying publics were identified, analysed and tackled. The airlines in transit in the wide blue yonder can get dwarfed and in dire straits to cause many airlines to cease operations abruptly. And in other instances, government officials, business partners on very important international civic engagements and business summits, and even foreign scholars on admission or resumption to classes, airborne, can get stranded, and literally marooned, unable to complete or proceed on trips to different destinations in any of the African capital cities or elsewhere in the continents of the world, ascribable to flight interruptions.

The incongruity in the air, caused by fuel tankering can also badly affect tourism and ease of doing business. “Such diverse international appointments or engagements slowed up, made late, might have to do with driving the movement of labour and cross board business investments, connecting to global markets for the development needs of nations and peoples,” said Dr Thomas Ogungbangbe, head of the high powered meeting, held at the headquarters of the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) in Nairobi.

He pierced competently through every barrier and had his autopsy of fuel tankering, describing the practice as unwholesome for socio-economic development and sustenance in Africa, wide ranging and epic in its sweep. And his delivery meant just one and same thing to the different peoples of the different African sub- regions, which nations the participants came from, notwithstanding.

Hear Ogungbangbe, explaining to the meeting how fuel tankering became decadent and crooked, and Africa lost volumes to the practice: “The old refineries that were in Nigeria, never were configured to produce jet fuel which is kerosene-based, refined clear or straw-coloured, manufactured to tightly controlled specifications and used primarily to power turbine engines such as jet engine. So what the old refineries could only do was household kerosene, unfit for the consumption of jet engines.

And it became that bad as Nigeria needed to import jet fuel, worse that we required US dollars to do imports, and worse when dollars became scarce in the last 7 to 10 years ago. “The situation became increasingly worrisome for all international airlines coming to Nigeria and what they did the most times, was to tanker in to Nigeria’s airports and refuelled with any minimum aviation fuel they could get from the nation’s imported fuel, atop the more than enough tones of fuel they had from the airports of departure.

That was the fuel tankering they did, used the passenger-load factor to leave passengers’ luggage behind and that created weight space in the aircraft to be balanced up with more tons of aviation fuel uploaded to the aircraft fuel storage. The fuel tankering practice is thus odd, and the oddity ignited dissatisfaction in the passengers coming to Nigeria and their bags, suitcases wouldn’t come with them at destination airports,” Ogungbangbe said.

Elucidating further he said: “A corresponding situation was seeing an international airline destined to touchdown in Nigeria, go to the neighbouring airport of a West African country to refuel and had to pay for landing and parking, with huge financial implications for the aircraft and such other circumstantial risks as fuel shortages, contaminated fuel, delays, and technical faults.”

Ogungbangbe sees profoundly, in the mould of Abraham Lincoln what many do not see, blazing the trail across the somewhat hazy firmament of aviation business as he stepped in with the announcement that the world airlines, in particular, African airlines, were in for a treat on the need to stamp out fuel tankering just as he urged the airlines to take advantage of the qualitatively operative aviation fuel product from Nigeria’s Dangote industrial plants, the world’s largest petroleum refinery.

And in one way than one, what’s pro- economic development of Nigeria, in the context of aviation safety and Dangote’s aviation fuel is the Lincoln sensibility in Ogungbangbe, the chairman of the Aviation Fuel Marketers’ Association of Nigeria (AFMAN). While the time ticked away, Ogungbangbe, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at CITA ENERGIES Limited, and at various times, the chairman or vice chairman, Ministerial Committee on Fuel Price & Product Availability; Management Committee, Joint Aviation Facility; Management Committee, Joint User Hydrant Installation (JUHI- 1 & 2); and several other specialist steering committees, deployed his resources with requisite connections and interactions and shopped around the world for active airlines for aviation fuel patronages of Dangote’s fuel at airports.

And in Africa, at the Nairobi plenary, he met with the AFRAA, African airlines, represented by the active top number of them viz. Kenya Airlines, Asky Airlines, Astral Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, and others, in terms of needed passengers and cargoes carried, fleet size or physical capability of the aircraft, take-off and landing weight, destinations served or distance flown, and revenue as catalyst for economic and physical integration of Africa for growth and development

The airline participants from Africa, the world’s second largest and second most populous continent, at the just concluded aviation biz, piqued by the poor air travel accessibility or link in the continent and fuel tankering, crude and hugely costly with no economic ascendancy, eminence or comfort to the airlines, came to agreement to squelch fuel tankering, and in its stead, preferred business dealings with Nigeria’s Dangote’s aviation fuel as Ogungbangbe enjoined them to take the advantage of the considerate price of the fuel at airports by carrying more fuel than required for safe flight.

“The point is that fuel tankering, a misnomer, degrading and uneconomical, has become obsolete,” Ogungbangbe noted, adding that: “Since aviation is a highly competitive market, airlines must do everything possible to minimise their operating costs. It’s in their best interest to drive these huge costs down as much as they could by taking maximum advantage of Dangote’s refinery, maximally negotiating and transacting for Dangote’s aviation fuel.”

The recap is that the participants at the Nairobi business meeting extinguished fuel tankering into Nigeria, Africa’s important destination for over 22 foreign carriers; and in unison, they indicated interest and readiness to be on facility visit to the $19 billion Dangote plants in June, this year. Ogungbangbe, scientist by training, had earlier told his host participants that the Dangote’s aviation fuel plant is one refinery with zero government control in the wise of ownership, policy management and equity holding except a certain percentage share to the government that is also expected to provide enabling, safe and secure environment for the industrial plant to thrive and operate to break even without interference in any forms.

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