The National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma) is yet to commission the 25 million litres fuel reserves in Lilongwe, putting dreams of increasing Malawi’s fuel cover to 60 days hanging in the balance.
In November, Nocma, a government agency that will be managing strategic fuel reserves in the country’s three regions, with a combined capacity of 60 million litres, announced that it will be commissioning the fuel reserves in Lilongwe by December.
However, in an interview on Wednesday, Nocma spokesperson Telephorus Chigwenembe said the commissioning will be delayed due to some logistical issues which are not “technical in nature”.
Said Chigwenembe: “We failed to commission the reserves in December as planned because we have been dealing with other issues and the festive season break was also a contributing factor.
“However, I should put [on record] that the reasons behind the delay are not even technical as all technical issues to do with the reserves have already been cleared. We will, be commissioning the reserves soon, but we cannot commit on the actual date as it will be inaugurated by high profile people who will have to confirm of their availability without inconveniencing other programmes.”
According to sources at State House, President Peter Mutharika is expected to inaugurate the reserves.
In his letter of intent to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), dated June 2 2016, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe, noted that the reserves are key to landlocked Malawi as they can bring a sense of national security as regards oil and gas availability in times of a crisis.
He said that the current low levels of reserves, combined with the country’s landlocked geographical status, clearly puts Malawi in a vulnerable position “that government is highly desirous of mitigating.”
According to Nocma, Malawi consumes about 1 million litres of fuel per day.
The Lilongwe reserves delayed to be operational in July this year, because one of the metres for offloading and loading fuels failed to pass the Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) tests.
Government has constructed the three strategic fuel reserves with a loan from the Indian government worth $26 million (approximately K19 billion).
In 2014, government rehabilitated and opened Chipoka in Salima and Mchinji fuel reserves at an estimated cost of K500 million with an aim of preventing the 2011/12 fuel shortage. n