Ops manager: Paria unable to identify risks in pipeline repair

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Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Colin Piper –

Paria Fuel Trading Company Ltd’s Terminal Operations Manager Colin said Paria did not possess the competency needed to review the scope of works presented to them by LMCS for the job being done at Paria’s Berth 6 at Pointe-a-Pierre.

Piper was giving eagerly anticipated testimony on Wednesday during the Commission of Enquiry into the February 25 tragedy, held at the International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, chaired by Jerome Lynch, KC.

Responding to questions from CoE counsel Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, he said the risk assessments and emergency response plans (ERPs) presented by LMCS were to include all credible scenarios.

“LMCS should have identified all credible risks and planned ERPs and mitigation strategies. As Paria were not experts in these types of jobs, we would look for obvious operational risks but wouldn’t be able to identify specialised risks. Paria is not the expert, but we hired a company we thought had the expertise. We did not hire an expert to review the contract as this contractor had successfully completed similar works and came with a wealth of experience.”

He said while he was on the tenders committee that approved the contract, he did not review the tenders, as this was the province of the technical and maintenance department. He said the assessments and plans would not have been presented to the committee.

Maharaj said the permit to work for the job listed a Kenson employee as the applicant for the job, while LMCS was listed separately as the contractor, and Piper as the site authority. Maharaj noted that the job description for the applicant indicated that they should have the competency to carry out the works being executed. Piper said the Kenson employee was supervising the job and did not have the competency to carry it out.

Lynch said Piper had previously explained that in some cases the applicant is the contractor as it makes sense in those cases. He asked Piper if he could conceive of a situation more important than this one where the contractor should have been the applicant.

Piper replied, “I would say yes sir, the contractor should have been the applicant.”

Lynch said, “Even though it isn’t said anywhere, you told us it is a practice adopted by Paria from time to time that the applicant in the work permit form could and should be the contractor himself. Given your reliance on the contractor for his expertise in this case, he should have been the applicant, that’s what you’re saying? If you were doing this over, starting today, and you had this work permit in front of you, who would you make the applicant?”

Piper replied, “I would make the contractor the applicant, I would say it should have been the contractor.”

Piper also said he made the decision to pause any attempts to rescue the divers at 6.25 pm on February 25 after being told that a diver had tried to enter the pipeline.

“I told Mr Harichan we don’t know the conditions in the pipeline. Clearly at that time we didn’t know what had caused the accident, we didn’t know at that time what the conditions in the pipeline were, we did know there was oil in the pipeline, we did understand at the time there were men in the pipeline, so we didn’t know where the men were in the pipeline, how much oil was in the pipeline so there were several unknowns to us.

“This is a confined space of quite a magnitude, a 30-inch pipeline which is a quarter of a mile long, that is a fuel oil pipeline. That is not a simple space for someone to go in for any reason. So I took the decision at that time to pause because we needed to assess. In an emergency response, the worst thing you can do is to act instinctively and emotionally, and definitely not in this case. Therefore I had no choice but to say stop, we need to assess, so I took that decision, as difficult as that decision was.”

Piper said when Boodram was brought ashore, attempts were made to speak to him to ascertain the conditions inside the pipeline, but he was taken away quickly by GMRTT. He said one of Paria’s HSE officers had asked to ride in the ambulance with Boodram but he was told he was denied. He said he sent someone to speak to Boodram at the hospital approximately two hours later.

At this point a visibly upset Boodram left the courtroom but returned a few minutes later.

Asked by Maharaj on what basis he made the decision to stop rescue attempts, considering that there have been successful rescues of people in confined spaces, Piper said it was on the basis of his 45 years in the marine industry.

“All my life, confined space entry has taken lives and it’s not something to be taken lightly. We didn’t know if the pipeline was stable and, based on that, Paria could not sanction anyone entering that pipeline, even though I didn’t get advice from an expert diver. More rescuers die in confined spaces in the maritime industry than people who are saved.”

He gave examples of two recent cases. In the first, a crewman was overcome by fumes in a tank, and the master of the vessel rushed in to save him and was overcome, with both dying. In 2018, a seaman was overcome in a train locker, and three people died, two of whom tried to save the first.

“Deaths in confined spaces are one of the major causes of deaths in the maritime industry and a number of those are rescuers, so warnings continually go out against people acting on emotion and instinct rather than knowledge and experience.”

Piper admitted under questioning from Lynch that Paria had not developed a confined space certificate which would detail the measures to be taken if work was taking place in a confined space or if an emergency took place. Asked if the procedures which were used to monitor the chamber being used to carry out the work were written down anywhere, Piper said the HSE department would have to say.

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