GSD says Govt put 'commercial expedience over safety' with LNG bunkering operation
The GSD has accused the Gibraltar Government of putting commercial gain over safety by allowing an LNG bunkering operation in the bay, even though the company delivering the fuel did not have a licence in Gibraltar.
The issue of the licence was revealed by the Minister for the Port, Gilbert Licudi, during an interview with GBC in which said that the operation was "considered to be good for Gibraltar".
For the GSD, that decision signals the government's willingness to allow "commercial expedience to trump safety and the law".
The decision, the Opposition said, amounted to "a step toward Government without regard for the rule of law."
The LNG operation was conducted by Dutch company Titan LNG, which delivered over 3,000 tonnes of fuel in BGTW to the world's largest crane vessel, Sleipnir.
Titan LNG is one of the world's leading LNG suppliers, with over two decades of experience in the sector.
The backdrop to the operation is a growing focus in the shipping industry on LNG as a greener alternative to traditional fossil fuels, and a race among key bunkering ports around the globe to ensure they are able to meet demand when necessary.
"This is the largest quantity of LNG that has ever been bunkered and proves that this upcoming fuel is available anywhere now," Titan said in a statement on the operation.
The government had previously stated the bunkering operation was allowed only after key personnel from both vessels met with a team from the Gibraltar Port Authority, including the Captain of the Port, his deputy, senior officers, the Bunkering Superintendent and the pilots.
But the GSD said the Gibraltar law only allows exemptions in exceptional circumstances, adding that the minister's statement that this operation was "good for Gibraltar" did not meet the test.
“It is very worrying that an apparent shortcut has been taken to circumvent normal safety requirements in an operation as full of risk as LNG bunkering," said Trevor Hammond, the GSD's spokesman for the environment.
"While the minister was at pains to explain that Shell were still in the process of obtaining their LNG bunkering licence, the only such licence that has currently been applied for and that this would be issued ‘if everything is in order’, Titan were permitted to conduct a massive LNG bunkering operation on the world’s largest offshore crane, the Sleipnir."
“It is necessary to ask how it was determined that a company that has not even applied for a licence for LNG bunkering in Gibraltar was able to demonstrate that it could safely conduct such an operation."
"How was this assessed and what risks were identified?"
"The truth is more likely to be found in the comment by the minister that the operation was deemed to be good for Gibraltar, the inference from which is that safety and the law played second fiddle to commercial expediency, something that the GSD has been deeply concerned about throughout the development of the LNG industry in Gibraltar”.