Bulk movement of LPG from the BPCL-Kochi Refinery at Ambalamugal to bottling plants of oil companies across the State has been disrupted after the Southern State LPG Tanker Lorry Owner’s Association based in Namakkal in Tamil Nadu suspended operations in the State from Saturday morning.
The move was in protest against action taken by the police against vehicles and its employees belonging to the association members. The association operates between 200 and 250 trucks a day in Kerala. BPCL-KR sources said that a meeting will be held with the association to resolve the issue.
“We have not suspended the operations but the drivers are agitated at the police action. They are apprehensive of police detention and are not willing to operate,” N.R. Karthik, secretary of the Association, told The Hindu.
He said that the police had detained ten trucks and its drivers within the Karunagappally and Kollam police station limits during the last two days. The police action, he said, was based on the charge that the trucks were not having two drivers and a cleaner as required by the national permit provisions.
The present impasse could not have come at a worse time as an acute shortage of cooking gas cylinders had been felt already. BPCL-KR sources said that though there would not be any immediate impact the situation might worsen if trucks remain off the road for a couple of days together.
LPG meant for bottling plants of all three oil companies in the State are transported from the BPCL-Kochi Refinery. The bottling plant functioning within the BPCL-KR refinery at Ambalamugal and the HPCL plant at Irumpanam that are served by pipelines would not be affected. The functioning of the remaining bottling plants of oil companies across the State would be affected if the truck services were to remain suspended for longer durations.
K.P. Kurian, who operates a firm engaged in the transportation of LPG cylinders, said that out of the 80-odd truck loads moved out of BPCL-KR a day, anything in the range of 45-50 loads were meant for bottling plants within the State.
Stringent rules had been enforced in the operation of gas tankers following the explosion of gas from the tanker that met with an accident at Karunagappally in Kollam district last December. Since then it had been made mandatory to have two drivers and a cleaner in gas tankers.
Mr. Karthik said that sever shortage of manpower was preventing the association from meeting that condition and that had already been conveyed to the government and oil companies.
He admitted that seventy per cent of the trucks operated with a single driver. Mr. Karthik, however, said that this was not unique to Kerala but the services in other States were also operated the same way.
Mr. Karthik said that instead of insisting on the two-driver rule authorities should be focusing on infrastructure development. “Poor condition of the roads in Kerala is the root cause for accidents. That’s the reason why majority of the accidents involving tankers are taking place in the State,” he said.