Dysfunctional Pipelines Keep Airfares High Despite Local Jet A1 Production

Real Madrid

Freight Rate for trucking aviation fuel also known as Jet A1 from Dangote refinery to the Lagos Airports is eroding the gains of the refinery to local airline operators.
LEADERSHIP reports that Dangote refinery had in April, 2024, announced reduction in price of aviation fuel to N980/litre, making passengers jubilate that the price of tickets will reduce due to the reduction of aviation fuel that constitutes 70 per cent of airlines operating cost.

However, despite the reduction in aviation fuel, the price of local tickets across the country is still very high and this is due to the cost of freighting the product to the airport due to dysfunctional pipelines meant to transport aviation fuel to the local airport.

Stakeholders further argued that if the pipelines were functional, trucking of aviation fuel to the airport would be avoided, thereby, reducing the overall costs incurred by airlines which are eventually transferred to the passengers as part of ticket costs.

For instance, a one-way economy class ticket from Lagos to Abuja, Port Harcourt, Owerri and Uyo which cost N55,000 to N65,000 last year now costs between N150,000 to N250,000 on Air Peace; N100,000 to N150,000 on United Nigerian Airlines; and N170,000 to N200,000 on Ibom Air.

They stated that for the airlines to benefit maximally from the local refinery of Jet A-1, the pipeline meant for transportation of aviation fuel to the Lagos local airport must be made functional.

According to the chief operating officer, Centurion Aviation Security and Safety Consult, Capt John Ojikutu (rtd), confirmed that the pipelines have been dysfunctional for over 32 years.

He wondered why the pipeline designed to transport fuel from Ejigbo to the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA) Lagos could not have been repaired since 1992 after it was ruptured.

“It would have cost about $9.2m then to replace the ruptured pipes but sadly, nothing was done or had been seriously considered to be done. Rather, tankers have been bridging the supply from the NNPC depots, with the cost of transportation and demurrage added, and having to for days and sometimes weeks to discharge at the airport depots.”

Ojikutu, a former Commandant of Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, said aside from the logistics-driven high cost of fuel, there has been evidence of fuel contamination in many Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB) accident reports.

He stated that several suggestions had been made to concerned agencies of the federal government to make the repairs of the pipelines since 2002 but none have shown any serious concern.

“The pipeline which ran to the airport from the Shagamu Fuel Depot ( a distance of over 50km) had since about 10 years ago been diverted to Ejigbo a distributor of less than 20km to the MMA which should reduce the cost of replacing the damaged pipelines and therefore the cost transportation and the cost of the fuel.

“Overall, the high cost of aviation fuel may not reduce significantly if the supply will continue with the trucking associated with demurrage charges for long periods of time for parking before discharge.

“Several political interests are involved in the line of aviation fuel supply and it is only the will of the honest ones in the administration of our government and the management of the agencies that can make the necessary and responsible change,” he said.

On his part, the founder of West Link Airlines Nigeria, Capt. Ibrahim Mshelia, said the infrastructure had been broken down for a long time ago and repairing it would ease the surface trucks moving around the airport.

He, however, disclosed that he is aware that there were hydrants within the airport where hoses are connected, making it easy for fuel to be supplied to the aircraft.

“We have been using surface tanks to supply aviation fuel. Our roads will continue to be damaged because they have to truck the fuel from the factory to the airport. If they repair it and connect it directly from Dangote with a pipeline to the airport and use hydrants, it would be fantastic. It will ease a lot of problems for us,” he said.

He alleged that airlines are still being charged for the hydrant service when there has been no hydrant for a long time.

“It was during Jonathan’s time in office that I raised this question of why airlines still pay for the hydrant services and no one could answer it. For me, you cannot be charging for a hydrant. For every litre we buy, there are charges.

“If the hydrants are repaired, there would be more airplanes refuelling at the same time, instead of waiting for one truck to discharge. If you have to carry the fuel to the aircraft as we do now, then you need as many trucks as possible.

“Fixing this infrastructure would cut down refuelling time drastically and improve departure timings and schedule timing. It will impact positivity even on passengers because when the airlines can turn around on time, the passengers also get to their destinations on time,” Mshelia said.

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