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Shell surges ahead as Petron dallies

December 29, 2006

BIZLINKS By Rey Gamboa
The Philippine Star 12/29/2006

THE usually media-shy Shell was in the midst of a flurry of press releases during the past week. The press item on the IPO was a non-event as it did not state anything new but was merely a reiteration of earlier statements that the eventual IPO of local Shell shares would depend on the results of studies about the refinery. This ongoing study has been Shell’s main excuse for the past two years.

What caught my eye and interest, however, was the press report that Pilipinas Shell has commissioned the Philippines’ first double-hulled tanker (Philippine Star, Dec. 15, 2006). The blessing and commissioning of M/T Petro Cara, a vessel owned by Transoil Corp., made Shell the first oil company to comply with the public clamor to upgrade vessels plying Philippine waters, thereby enhancing safety in sea transport.

I would have thought that Petron, which caused the worst marine disaster in the country by using a vessel that was single-hulled and reportedly not seaworthy, would have been the first to commission double-hulled sea-going petroleum tankers.

Paving the way

Being a former Shell staff, I feel elated that the current crop of Shell managers has finally decided that the company should lead the industry and pave the way towards overhauling its fleet of tankers that bring much-needed oil products to the different islands. Shell country chairman Ed Chua was reported saying that Shell will charter four more double-hulled vessels over the next two years.

In fast-tracking the commissioning of double-hulled oil carriers, I hope that Ed will give priority to the mothballing of the 25-year old single-hull (named Harvest Moon) oil tanker that Shell, I was informed, is still using. Let’s not wait for another Guimaras tragedy, guys.

Kudos to vessel owner Transoil

Hats off, too, to Leonardo “Boy” Leonio, the man behind Transoil Corp., for bringing the shipping company to where other ship owners fear to tread, and for committing a substantial investment that will boost the future of maritime business in the country.

Leonio, an avid golf player who keeps a low profile on his single-digit handicap, made the quiet and aggressive move to acquire the newly built double-hulled vessel while the rest of those in the maritime industry were still mulling on how to respond to increasing public outcry over the frequent sea tragedies.

According to Energy Secretary Lotilla, double-hulled vessels would help prevent the recurrence of an environmental calamity, such as the Guimaras oil spill tragedy last August, since a double hull tanker can withstand rough seas. Furthermore, oil will not leak from its cargo in case the vessel sinks.

So while Shell and Transoil jointly have taken the bold step to bring local maritime facilities up to international standards, Petron continues to dilly-dally. Maybe the lessons of the Guimaras environmental disaster it has caused have not yet sunk deep enough. Or maybe, Petron management feels that the P2 per liter Christmas discount given to its motorists during the holiday period is enough reparation to atone for its “sins.”

Reader lauds another Shell initiative

Another initiative of Shell earned the praise of reader David Palafox Ramos who wrote as follows:

“I read your column today entitled ‘Flying V soars in biofuel field.’ I believe that it is only proper to commend such companies who have worked tirelessly to pursue national economic agendas even if it is against the giants of their industry who seem to be solely motivated by profits.

“You also made special mention of Seaoil and Eastern Petroleum for their own efforts in the same endeavor. In this regard I would like to express the same sentiment towards Shell who seems to be the only one of the big three to take its own initiatives in developing alternative fuels. In fact, I would like to commend Shell for its efforts in making its ethanol-mixed fuel available ahead of any legislation.

“I have been driving on Shell E-10 for some months now since Shell came up with the product. With Shell E-10, I was able to buy a cheaper gasoline than unleaded fuel, and as I have personally proven with my car, provides more mileage than that of fuel sold by Caltex and Petron.

“To Petron, being a government owned company, I say — shame on you for not having an initiative to develop better and cheaper fuel alternatives. You should have been the one looking out for the Filipino driver instead of looking at just profits.”

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