Unanswered questions about a new fuel bunkering subsidiary, Bunkers Oil of Trinidad and Tobago, yesterday resulted in a shut-down at Petrotrin's Marine division and the filling bond in Pointe-a-Pierre.
Oilfields Workers' Trade Union (OWTU) leader Ancel Roget yesterday confirmed the protest action, saying workers were not pleased about what was described as a lack of communication from Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine and Petrotrin's silence on the new bunkering arrangement.
The OWTU, Roget said, is also protesting the company's failure to accede to the promise of variable pay, subject to the company's profitability. The collective bargaining agreement states if the company makes in excess of $100 million, it will pay bonuses to workers.
But last Thursday, a circular went out to all employees stating the company was profitable in fiscal year 2010/2011 and, as such, employees were rewarded with variable pay at the end of June.
"Unfortunately, in fiscal year 2009/2010, the company suffered a net loss and, regrettably, there is no profit available to be shared amongst employees for that particular year," the memo said.
But yesterday, over 200 frustrated workers attached to the division downed tools, leaving a fuel ship unberthed and empty.
That fuel ship was supposed to supply Tobago.
Roget said if both situations were not rectified, it could lead to continued action and a shortage of fuel to parts of south Trinidad and Tobago.
"There is a vessel that was unable to berth because of the work stoppage. That vessel is expected to supply fuel to Tobago," Roget said.
Three weeks ago, at a post-Cabinet media briefing, Ramnarine announced that Cabinet agreed on the issue of a marketing licence for the local bunkering company.
He had said then that there would be a subsidiary of international company Bunkers' International Corporation.
The company, he had said then, will bunker vessels working for Oldendorf, a German-based company which recently established a transshipment business in the country.
Ramnarine said an estimated 125 ships would be bunkered in local waters as part of the new venture, with a future growth potential for 350 vessels.
He said Cabinet "agreed that any fuel being purchased by bunkers from Bunkers Oil Trinidad and Tobago Ltd must be purchased from State-owned Petrotrin, adding it would be additional revenue for Petrotrin.
The union, Roget said, took note of that statement, and even after speaking with Petrotrin, none of their questions were answered.
But Ramnarine yesterday said despite the announcement three weeks ago, no licence has been awarded for bunkering.
"Cabinet did agree to the award of a licence to one company, Bunkers Oil Trinidad and Tobago Ltd, a subsidiary of Bunkers International. The award of this licence is however subject to a number of conditions being met," he said via text message.
With regard to the protest action, Ramnarine said all contingencies were in place to keep the supply chain functioning.
Late last year, during the height of the State of Emergency, Government uncovered a million-dollar diesel bunkering racket. Though no one has since been formally charged, Government has maintained it was embarking on strict measures to mitigate illegal fuel bunkering, including adding a blue dye to the fuel as a marker.