Deep-Sea Fishermen In Quandary Over "e-diesel"

Source: http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v3/news.php?id=191236

April 12, 2006 14:08 PM

Deep-Sea Fishermen In Quandary Over “e-diesel”

A Special Report By Openg Onn Net

KUALA LUMPUR, April 12 (Bernama) – When the government announced a hefty diesel subsidy for commercial vehicles’ operators and fishermen effective Feb 28, this should have brought them smiles and cheers.

Instead of paying RM1.581 for a litre of diesel, they need only to fork out RM1 for a litre of this fuel under the subsidy scheme.

This lower diesel price is expected to alleviate the already “heavy costs” shouldered by bus and lorry operators as well as fishermen, apart from checking inflation.

However, it is a much different story for owners of deep-sea fishing vessels.

SCARCE DIESEL SUPPLY

Despite the lower price of subsidised fuel, it is a “nightmarish” experience to get the fuel, according to claims by fishermen.

Under this new subsidy scheme, diesel supply is controlled and managed by the National Fishermen’s Association (Nekmat) and Area Fishermen Association, under supervision of Fisheries Development Authority (LKIM).

Fishermen are required to register their boats with LKIM, enabling them to be eligible for purchase of subsidised diesel through the “e-diesel” card system.

Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin told the Dewan Rakyat recently that as of March 23, a total of 12,964 fishing boats had registered with LKIM for the cards.

Prior to this, fishermen have the option to purchase diesel in bulk for their own consumption, thus ensuring regular and sufficient supply for their vessels.

LONG QUEUE

Many deep-sea fishing boat operators are badly hit by this new arrangement. One of them is the Kelantan-based Yee Trading and Management Resource Sdn Bhd, which operates 19 trawlers and vessels.

The company’s executive chairman Sulaiman Yaacob said the fishing boats have to wait in long queues before getting their fuel supply under the e-diesel card system.

“This has affected their fishing trips’ schedule,” he said.

Sulaiman said such long queues happen as there is only one filling pump for a deep-sea fishing boat’s tank, taking about two hours to pump in 10,000 litres of diesel.

“Not only that, sometimes the vessels are forced to wait until the next day if supply of diesel runs short for the day,” Sulaiman told Bernama when met at the Tok Bali fishing port near Kota Baharu recently.

Fishermen Associations’ diesel supply centres operate 12 hours from 7am daily, but these centres may close earlier if there is no more fuel available.

TWO-DAY WAIT

Sulaiman said at times the fishing vessels have to wait for two days or more if the following day is a weekend or public holiday, as the supply centres do not operate on such days.

To make matters worse, the deep-sea fishing boats are always given supply way below their quota.

"A vessel needs at least 30,000 litres of diesel for a return trip but the supply centre limits it to between 15,000 and 20,000 litres only.

“As a result, our fishing vessels could not go out further and they are forced to return for refuelling and taking with them much lesser catch,” he said

Sulaiman also said the centres’ operating hours also did not fit with the deep-sea fishing boats’ schedule as the vessels would go out anytime after unloading their catch.

“What we need is a 24-hour operation so that the fuel supply centres are open anytime when we need to replenish our vessels’ diesel supply”, he said, adding that Yee Trading operates its own jetty at the Tok Bali port.

NOT READY

Another deep-sea fishing operator at Tok Bali is Datuk Aziz Mat Daud who feels LKIM is not really ready and has limited cash flow and other capital when the government implemented the e-diesel card system.

This is obvious with insufficient facilities like only one pump operating at the diesel stations and limited supply of fuel at a centre.

“LKIM diesel stations’ operating hours is exactly like the government office hours. This works against the fishermen’s interest as these people have no fixed working time,” said Aziz.

When the issue was brought to the attention of Kelantan LKIM Director Raslee Ismail recently, the response was that the agency’s fuel stations are prepared to operate round-the-clock to meet fishermen’s demand

However, according to Sulaiman, until now the diesel stations fail to operate as promised, thus prolonging difficulties faced by the deep-sea fishing operators.

In view of this predicament, the Kelantan Fisheries Consortium MOA Incorporated, has proposed that the body be given the right to provide subsidised diesel direct to deep-sea fishing operators.

The consortium comprises six major deep-sea fishing companies which operate 96 vessels. Sulaiman is the consortium’s secretary.

He said the consortium had submitted an application on this, dated last Feb 15, to Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

A follow-up to the application was also submitted on march 29, said Sulaiman.

Sulaiman said the consortium hopes that the issue is resolved soon as further delay would mean only thing, further decrease in the deep-sea fishermen’s catch which brings along detrimental impact to the nation’s economy.

– BERNAMA