September 10, 2008

Namibia: Transport Strike Disrupts Fuel Supply, Mining Operations

Text of report by state-owned Namibian newspaper New Era website on 9 September

[Report by Desie Heita: "Strike Disrupts Fuel Supplies"]

Windhoek: The strike at TransNamib has disrupted the supply of oil inland as petroleum companies find it difficult to move petroleum from the port of Walvis Bay aboard trucks in the absence of rail tankers.

Mining operations that require chemical acids, such as Rossing Uranium, say they are using up their contingency stocks to keep operations going.

The private sector is now watching the ongoing strike at TransNamib with a hawk's eye hoping that Government mediation finds an immediate solution to the standoff between TransNamib and Namibia Transport and Allied Workers Union.

Shell Namibia says the oil orders for Keetmanshoop and Luderitz are standing still because of the strike.

"We have had to engage alternative sources of transport which in turn is a costly exercise," says Shell Namibia External Affairs Officer Mona-Lisa Garises.

Garises says they hope the relevant parties sort out their differences soon. In the meantime, Shell would put in more effort to ensure that deliveries are on time and in full.

Managing Director of Total Namibia, Fanuel Tjivau, says they have had to approach third parties for immediate and stand-by trucking services at great cost.

"It is tight. Road transport does not have the same capacity as rail transport," says Tjivau, adding that the other concern is of health and safety issues that come with having large numbers of trucks transporting flammable products over long distances.

"We are holding our breath that no accident happens on national roads involving a truck carrying tonnes of petroleum. If it does happen, it would be a disaster," says Tjivau.

The strike has also halted the transportation of minerals from mining sites to the ports in Luderitz and Walvis Bay, and the transport of crucial mining acids from Walvis Bay.

Rossing Uranium Mine says it has sufficient stock levels of chemical acids to continue with mining operations for the next six to 14 days.

Beyond that the mine would have to re-look into its operations, says Jerome Mutumba.

"We can cover our operations for now," says Mutumba.

Skorpion Zinc Mine, that usually moves 14 trucks with loads of zinc everyday, is currently stock-piling zinc, says the mine's spokesperson Usi //Hoebeb.

Fortunately for Skorpion Zinc the next shipment is due within the next three months.

"There are really no major financial problems for us," said // Hoebeb.

The Minister of Works and Transport, Helmut Angula, said the strike has caused enormous damage to business transactions at home and dented the international community's confidence in the country.

Originally published by New Era website, Windhoek, in English 9 Sep 08.

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