For some, the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan may be good news but, for oil tanker owners, it means an impending end to the windfall profits they have made over the years.
Their misery began when the Government of Pakistan announced a blockade of land routes for the Nato forces in Afghanistan, following an attack on Salala checkpost in November 2011. Though the routes were reopened by July 2012 and movement of other consignments resumed unhindered, oil supply remained suspended due to security threats posed by the militants on the way to Afghanistan.
Since then hundreds of these tankers have been docked in this coastal city, only to go under the knife at the many welding shops in Shireen Jinnah Colony and be sold as scrap.
“People associated with the Nato oil supply have now realised that the game is over,” said Nazir Khan, an owner of oil tankers, who is converting his fleet into container trucks. “Over a dozen drivers and helpers of Nato oil tankers have been killed by the militants as oil tankers meant for the Nato forces have certain distinguishing features while with other containers it’s hard to make out whether they are meant for transit trade or foreign forces.”
Now that the withdrawal has finally started, Khan decided to sell these oil tanks in scrap as they have no use now and he needed the money.
The oil tanks alone cost a whopping Rs650,000 and together with the frame and tyres the final figure can reach up to Rs1.6 million. The scrap price is, however, only Rs37 per kilogramme and the owners would hardly recover Rs200,000 to Rs300,000 of their investment.
Muhammad Sajid, a mechanic in Shireen Jinnah Colony, said that the owners are dismantling them because the tankers were specially designed for Nato supply and do not fulfill the requirements of Pakistan State Oil, Caltex or Shell. “These tankers are 44 feet in length with a capacity of 60,000 litres,” he said, “These tankers require a much stronger engine and thus have higher fuel consumption.”
Sajid also said that modifying them to meet requirements of major oil marketing companies is an expensive process and not considered feasible though some local companies, such as Hascol and Attock Petroleum Limited, have included them in their fleet. “They can only be used in the supply of furnace oil but its not that profitable because of high fuel consumption.” Sajid further said that though the dismantling process had started a few months back, the activity received an impetus ahead of Ramazan as people need money for Eid.
Although mechanics and scrap dealers are making a quick buck from the booming business, they are not happy. “We have had a long connection with these vehicles,” said mechanic Saleem Khan. “They have fed us for a decade. This is a complete destruction for those associated with this business.” Saleem lamented how a tanker that costs Rs10 million is being sold at throwaway prices.
Syed Muhammad, a scrap dealer, concurred with Saleem and said that though he has chopped off 80 oil tankers in the last three months, he was unhappy over this tragic development. Israr Ahmed Shinwari, spokesperson of All Pakistan Oil Tanker Owners Association, told The Express Tribune that they were left with no other option. “Over 5,000 tankers have been made useless by the Salala incident,” he said, adding that those associated with the Nato oil supply business have been ruined. “Some of us have transformed our tanks into small tanks for edible oil while others have converted them into container trucks.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2013.