NCAA Strengthens Air Safety Measures, Audits Aviation Fuel Marketers - THISDAY
By Chinedu Eze
As part of its safety regulations, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has started an audit of aviation fuel marketers, known as Jet A1, in order to ensure that contaminated product is not fed into the aircraft.
This became critical when the regulatory authority discovered during checks that some aircraft took in water in their fuel tanks when they were stored during the COVID-19 lockdown and ensured that every airline carried out maintenance check to ensure that the aircraft fuel tanks were not contaminated.
THISDAY gathered that contaminated fuel could cause significant damage to the aircraft and engine and such damage could range from fuel system corrosion, clogging of fuel filtration components, failure of aircraft fuel system instrumentation, and even stopping the fuel supply to the engine during flight.
THISDAY also learnt that NCAA has intensified the inspection of the marketers to ensure that they abide by safety rules to ensure that the fuel they sell to airlines meet standard specifications.
The audit was confirmed by the General Manager, Public Affairs, NCAA, Sam Adurogboye, who disclosed that the regulatory authority would shut down any marketing company that does not meet the high standard specified by the agency.
Adurogboye told THISDAY that the NCAA engaged the services of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) for the audit of the marketers, noting that DPR has the expertise and the equipment to efficiently scrutinise the operations of the marketers.
"DPR is the appropriate agency to efficiently audit the marketers so we engage their services; just as the National Hajj Commission rely on us to ensure that they have airworthy aircraft for Hajj operations, so we rely on DPR when it comes to the auditing of the oil marketers. There are peripheral checks we can do on our own, but we rely on DPR for comprehensive audit of the marketing companies that supply aviation fuel to the airlines.
"We collaborate in all of this. If we found out that any of the marketers did not meet our given standards, we close the facility down and you know, any violation goes with sanctions," Adurogboye said.
He disclosed that NCAA closed the facility of one of the marketers recently because of suspected compromise of the quality of the product and report would be submitted on it soon after investigation. It was further gathered that some of the marketers do not have depots but use other people's depot so DPR cannot audit such companies because they do not have facilities to audit.
They only have bowsers, which they use to obtain the product when any airline or aircraft owner requests for fuel but they do not have storage facility of their own. So when they collect the product from a depot they pay the owner of the facility.
"Some of the marketers do not have storage facility of their own so DPR do not audit them. When their customers want fuel they will go to the marketers that have depot and collect fuel with the bowsers," an inside source told THISDAY.
THISDAY also spoke to the CEO of Cleanserve Energy, Chris Ndulue who said that the company has elaborate checking process to ensure that contaminated fuel is not fed into the aircraft.
"We have laboratory in all the locations where we operate, which include Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kaduna. We carry out quality check on the fuel at the point of taking the product at Apapa, we conduct another one at our own depot and we conduct another one in our bowser at the foot of the aircraft before we dispense into the aircraft. This is to ensure that there are no contaminants because the product can be contaminated at any point. So we make sure our product meet standard specifications," Ndulue said.
On the side of the airlines, the Chief Executive Officer of Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi told THISDAY that the airline has quality assurance department that checks on the quality of aviation fuel it buys. The personnel in this department scrutinise the company that serves fuel to the airline and carries out investigation on the quality of the product it supplies to the company.
"We have intensified the check for contaminants. We do regular checks on the bowsers. Our quality assurance team checks the company that is selling to us and despite the fact that we have the rule before; we have made it mandatory for the Captains to test the product before it is dispensed into the aircraft. We always carry out checks on water and other contaminants," Sanusi told THISDAY.