Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) has revealed that some imported fuel lacks quality as it is adulterated and may have effects on vehicle engines.
In view of this, the standards body said it will plant a laboratory at Songwe Border, the main entry of fuel, from October 1 2020, to ascertain the quality of fuel being imported.
MBS director general Symon Mandala said this on Monday when ministers of Industry and Trade—Roy Kachale-Banda and Sosten Gwengwe, respectively— visited the border to appreciate the bureau’s work.
He said: “We are establishing a monitoring programme right at the border so that before fuel gets into the country, we already know the quality and, therefore, should anything happen, we can easily trace the source.
“At the moment, we are doing fuel quality monitoring in the depots and sometimes at the service stations, but that is a product that is already in the country.”
On his part, Petroleum Importers Limited (PIL) general manager Martin Msimuko said they have SGS and Intertek that check that the loaded fuel is according to specifications at Beira while Intertek is also carrying out the exercise in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.
He said: “The companies put a seal to show that the product has been checked, and as it is coming here. We expect that batch to come as it is.
“But the distance is long and we don’t know what can happen on the roads with the drivers. That is why there should be a second check as it is arriving at the border by MBS. We would welcome that checking.”
Msimuko said when the product is being delivered to their customers, they also perform checks by looking at the density and appearance.
“If it is outside the density then it is not of right specifications. If the product quality is not right, they wouldn’t offload it,” he said.
Msimuko said when the truck has out of specification products, the samples are taken to MBS for certification and if confirmed, the product is not received and the drivers become suspects.
National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma) public relations officer Telephorous Chigwenembe said they usually check the fuel when it arrives in the country to ensure that it meets product specifications.
But Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) acting chief executive officer Stan Ishmael Chioko emphasised that fuel quality is checked before loading into the tankers at ports of Beira and Nacala in Mozamibique and Dar-es- Salaam.
He said: “This is done by independent inspectors who are representative of the importers. The checking is again done before receipt [offloading] at the fuel depots.
“The checking is also done before loading into the tankers of local distributors.”
Chioko further said from time to time, Mera and MBS check fuel samples in depots and service stations to test quality of the product.
He said they are working with MBS to set up testing centres at the country’s borders of Dedza, Mwanza and Songwe in Karonga.
On his part, Kachale-Banda urged MBS to ensure that all goods that leave or come into the country are checked before being used.
He said: “The challenge was that we did not have the required equipment to do the certification.
“Right now, we have a new laboratory in Blantyre that has state-of-the-art equipment where our goods will be tested and certified along international standards.”
According to the Malawi Revenue Authority, Malawi brings in about one million litres of fuel, but uses between one million and 1.5 million litres of fuel a day.