Friday 22 November 2019

Dutch ports at centre of dirty diesel trade, Swiss report claims

A lorry near Accra. Photo: Carl De Keyzer - Magnum

A lorry near Accra. Photo: Carl De Keyzer – Magnum

Swiss commodity trading firms are exploiting lax regulatory standards to sell toxic fuel to Africa and much of the dirty diesel is stored in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, according to a report by Swiss NGO Public Eye.

Rotterdam oil firm Vitol and Dutch Swiss Trafigura, have major refining and storage interests in the Netherlands and in Antwerp where crude oil is mixed with other substances to keep prices low, Public Eye claims.

‘The 160-page report also shows that the trading companies not only ship dirty diesel and dirty gasoline — and in some areas even sell it at their own pumps — but also produce both fuels themselves,’ Public Eye said.

‘On land or at sea, they mix up a petrochemical cocktail from refinery products and other components known in the industry as “African Quality”. These toxic fuels are mainly mixed in the ARA-Zone (Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp) where Swiss trading firms have their own refineries and storage facilities,’ the report said.

Banned substances

Many West African countries that export high grade crude oil to Europe receive toxic low quality fuel in return.

Public Eye researchers drew fuel at local pumps in eight countries and found diesel samples contained up to 378 times more sulfur than is permitted in Europe. Other toxic substances, such as benzene and poly-cyclical aromatic hydrocarbons, were also found in concentrations that are banned in Europe.

Unacceptable

‘It is unacceptable that we continue to supply developing countries with sub-standard fuels and vehicles, which result in major health impacts by increasing air pollution,’ said Eric Solheim, executive director of the UN’s environment programme.

‘In our globalized economy, there are good reasons to universallyapply clean fuel and vehicle standards in every country. Dumping old and dirty substances and technologies needs to stop now.’

According to Trouw, both Vitol and Trafigura say they support measures to reduce pollution and will reduce the level of sulfur permitted in fuel if the countries concerned change the regulations.

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