Co-workers block entrance to refinery

WILLEMSTAD — A group of approx. one-hundred co-workers had blocked the entrance gates to the Isla-refinery Tuesday morning so that no tank wagons from Curoil were able to enter or leave the refinery.


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This immediately caused an onrush from motorists on the filling stations.

Apparently, the panic was substantial. People were even filling soft drink bottles with fuel. Several gas stations had exhausted their supply in no time due to the unexpected great surge of customers. It’s true that the refinery is at a standstill since Sunday evening, but according to the standard, there is sufficient fuel in stock for eight to twelve weeks.
Angelo Meijer of trade union PWFC indicated that the action continued unabated around noon, "until the parties started negotiating and came up with a solution". According to him, the number of failures is getting entirely out of hand. "We had as much as fifteen shutdowns last year. Starting up is becoming core business." There is considerable fear amongst the personnel for an accident once the production units at the refinery will be started up again. "We have been drawing attention to this since the last eight months. Enough has been said about this."

The intense stench and root inconvenience from yesterday has subsided now that the remaining gasses have been torched. The only torch still burning this morning regarded the one from the lpg-installation. People from the management team and the technical service were the only ones present on the Isla-terrain this morning.
In the meantime, the BOO power plant has made several attempts to start up again after the serious failures during the past weekend. The starting up process had been discontinued after problems with an air compressor. The production units at the refinery depend entirely on the electricity, steam and water supply from BOO.

Breakdowns and blackout
The discontented personnel – led by the trade union Petroleum Workers Federation (PWFC) is putting pressure on the Board of Governors to provide clarity on the future of the BOO, which is not only coping with a structural capacity shortage but also frequently coping with breakdowns and blackout. According to trade union chairman Meijer, the personnel of the BOO power plant had joined the strike this morning. "They cannot continue like this. The plant is like a hospital filled with problem cases."

The Built Own & Operate power plant (BOO) is located on the terrain of the refinery. The operation is in the hands of Curaçao Utilities Operating Company (CUOC), a company under American management with Aqualectra (49 percent) and a consortium Curaçao Energy Company (51 percent), of which the Japanese multinationals Marubeni and Mitsubishi both possess half.
The power plant, constructed at the beginning of this century, had never met the needs. There is a structural capacity shortage, while the intention was that BOO would supply the surplus energy to Aqualectra for the benefit of the public net.
According to Meijer, the cause of the problems lies with the shareholders’ refusal to make the necessary investments. "They are not willing to make any investment because it already concerns a loss-making company."

The discontentment about CUOC as a company is substantial. Within the government and the Isla executives, one is currently considering whether the island territory and/or PdVSA could possibly take over CUOC. Of course, a take-over would not solve the capacity shortage immediately. It’s reported that Deputy Humphrey Davelaar (Energy Affairs, PNP) had held discussions with the management of CUOC and the Isla this morning. He was not available for an explanation.

Questions from GroenLinks

The threat from Venezuela to withdraw stated owned company PdVSA from Curaçao due to American military activities was reason for GroenLinks to ask Chamber-questions.
The opposition-party states that PdVSA’s withdrawal would end a near 25-year pollution on the island. "This would literally be a relief for the residents. There is still no clarity on PdVSA’s liability so that the company threatens to come away unscathed and shunting their responsibility for the enormous environmental pollution."
Therefore, the parties demands swift clarity from resigned State-Secretary Ank Bijleveld-Schouten (Kingdom Relations, CDA) and implementation of the Van Gent-motion to chart the recovery possibilities.
Chamber-member Ineke van Gent further requests clarity on the veracity of the withdrawal consideration. "What are the consequences of PdVSA’s withdrawal regarding alternatives for the Isla and the clearance of the polluted surrounding? What’s the status of the investigation into recovery of the environmental damage? Does this imply that Curaçao can (not) recover the clearance costs from the polluter?"