Fabian Demicoli

Malta Resources Authority (MRA) and Gas Distribution in Malta

 Gas is without fail an essential commodity for the public and also the commercial sector. GRTU represents all Gas distributors in Malta and Gozo. In the last few months the situation in relation to Gas Distribution in Malta has taken a turn to the worse with the result that we are now risking security of supply.

 

Of course, this is another result of those who decide to take the right opportunity at the right time to trample over the livelihood of those who have over so many years provided a good service to the market within the limitations provided. I am not a resident of Qajjenza, but residents are aware that as early as half six in the morning, day after day, week in and week out, trucks queue to be able to load cylinders as early as possible in order to take to the streets of Malta and Gozo. It is not an easy job at all. The distributor wakes up early in the morining, some as early as five or earlier in order to be at Qajjenza at half six.

On some days they are loaded within an hour, on other days within two, and on other days, they are there till well after noon and are not yet loaded. This is due to bad planning by Enemalta over the years and of course now the same system has been inherited by Liquigas. So until Liquigas gets thier new plant into motion, in September 2012, nothing seems likely to improve. Until then the situation is what it is and Gas Distributors, in discussion with the suppliers continue to try and find ways and means to better this situation.

Now however to add insult to injury the MRA, based on the strenght of a Legal Notice issued in 2008 and without consultation with any one (I forgot to point out that the existing Gas Distributors were completely left out of this Legal Notice) as if Robinson Crusoe has just discovered this small island and now this island needed gas distribution, issued an authorisation to another company in Malta to ‘transport, distribute and retail portable cylinders filled with LPG'

We are of course not against competition when all is effected on a fair and level playing field. After corresponding with the MRA and outlining to them the difficulties the sector is now faced with in detail we have of course received a lawyers answer. The MRA has drawn our attention to the fact that the authorisations issued to the gas sector were issued in accordance with existing national and EU legal requirments and obligations.

GRTU is going to ask the distributors to carry this reply in the form of a notice on their vehicles. With that information our distributors expect to eat every day. With that information the public is supposed to be serviced during bad days. Of course, who knows, maybe some people have long opted for electric cookers since their pay packets can afford it, but behold, there are many others out there who depend on this commodity.

The MRA continue to further complicate the issue. To them a vehicle parked wherever one feels like at any time selling gas in not in breach of the law. They insist that it is not a ‘fixed point of sale'…what is it then?…GRTU requests a  definition! The MRA seem to have all the answers. Maybe very shortly you'll be able to buy gas from your next door stationary. After this happens will you really feel safe at home?

Of course gas distribution in 2011 should be improved and discussions are being held in that direction, but we do not intend to continue discussing for ever. We have spent three solid months now and will continue during this month too with the hope of finding some light at the end of the tunnel.

On May 1st we celebrate Workers Day. A Gas Distributor other than being a self-employed is a worker too, and works hard for all that matters. We cannot take more of this shoving around from the MRA. We can no longer accept MRA to sit there and do nothing about the irregularities in this sector. We have reached the state where with every new day a new infringment takes place. Through the words of a lawyer MRA answers saying everything is fine.

We will not mince our words, enough is enough, we will continue discussions on the table until the end of this month, but beyond that we will stand up to be counted. Of course, not all those concerned see this issue from the eyes of the MRA. Some have more to loose. Some are silent. Others keep their fingers crossed. In the meantime the distributor bears the brunt. It is not acceptable and although we continue to insist on the table solutions, these have limits too. This is a worse scenario. While table discussions are proceeding, MRA continue to allow blatant infringments in this sector and always pointing fingers at the interpretation of the law. We are informed they might shortly issue a new dictionary of  both the Maltese and English languages.

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