The Sogi tank farm and the Matautu wharf petroleum storage tanks are under the radar and will have to be relocated one way or the other.
It will not happen immediately but “it must happen for the sake of residents living in the vicinities, not to mention the Apia waterfront,” Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi told the Savali Newspaper.
“It’s been in the government’s thinking tank for some time now to remove the tank farm from Sogi and the storage tanks from Matautu to an isolated destination which would be far away and isolated from residential areas,” elaborated the Prime Minister.
“And way before the Matautu Wharf fire last week, Cabinet had approved the relocation of the tanks to Vaiusu as one of the components in the Vaiusu Bay Area and Wharf Project.
“Having said that experts and officials have assured me that the Apia waterfront and residents were never at risk.
“To that extent, fears that the tanks could have blown up the wharf, destroying a large part of the Apia waterfront and placing hundreds of lives at risk should now be laid to rest.
“What we have learned in the aftermath is that we cannot wait for another close call.
“And we will be pressing forward with the Vaiusu Bay Project to eliminate the looming danger.
“Aside from the safety of residents and private property factors, the new wharf at Vaiusu complements our investment in the Pacific Forum Line-Neptune merger,” continued Tuilaepa.
“With 15 Pacific islands covered by the merger, Apia will be the main shipping links to New Zealand, Australia, Asia and even to North and South America.
“The long-term vision is to make Apia the shipping and trade hub of the Pacific Islands region.”
In the meantime, investigators are still trying to establish the cause of the huge oil tank explosion which killed one worker and injured another.
At a press conference Petroleum Products Services, (P.P.S) which operates the storage tanks has confirmed the blast happened at a time when the two men were welding some stairway rails. PPS Managing Director, Fanene Samau Sefo, told the press that there was no threat of the sort whatsoever.
“The tanks were designed in a way that it cannot be destroyed by a fire,” said Fanene. “I believe the evacuation was called for precautionary measures but with the fire alone, there wouldn’t have been a time when it would spread outside of the tank.
The tanks are surrounded by a cement wall so if there is any fuel leakage it is contained inside the bund wall.” And consultant responsible for the design and supervision of the tank, Peseta Konelio Tone added that it is understandable that what was seen made people believe that the fire could have spread outside the tank.
He maintained, however, that the tanks are designed to the highest standard of safety. Even if the lid had blown off, there are other measures to prevent a fire.
“In the case where it continues to burn (fuel) then foam is used outside and inside the tank. It went on for three hours before it was put out and other safety measures were taken,” added Peseta.
“Secondly, there is a bund wall that can contain the full amount of the whole tank if it leaks out.”
According to Peseta if the oil had spilled, there is a separator tank that can be used to extract the fuel so that the environment will not be damaged and people living close to the wharf would not be affected.
Asked about the impact of pollution and emission caused by the fume from the fuel, Peseta said an investigation is underway.
He added that there was no oil spill since the oil was contained in the tank.
But the Petroleum Advisor to the Pacific Community, Alan Bartmanovich, said the Apia blast had highlighted a broader issue of poor industry standards in the Pacific.
“There are some countries that have severe lacks of standards and infrastructure in the petroleum industry, others are more lucky, so it’s a bit of a mixed bag at the moment,” he said.
“There is a great identified need for training and for some countries to really up their standard.”
He said the incident in Apia came as a surprise, due to Samoa’s good record on safety standards.
“I think all accidents are avoidable, in the case of Samoa I would be very reluctant to make that conclusion. Samoa was one of the countries that was probably better equipped and better prepared, one of our shining examples of how to do things in a correct way,” he said.
“I would have thought that Samoa was relatively low [risk] but there are other countries that are seriously and still at risk, we are working towards providing training and also engaging international agencies that do provide training.”