Decommissioning of Birzebbugia fuel tanks starts today

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said it was unacceptable for the country to still be using facilities that 'remember Sette Giugno'

Yannick Pace
12 May 2017, 6:11pm
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat
The decommissioning of the 31st March fuel storage facility in Birzebbugia got underway today as the roof of the first tank was taken down.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who was present for the start of the decommissioning work together with minister Konrad Mizzi, said it was a good day for the people of Birzebbugia because that which they thought was impossible was now becoming a reality.

Muscat said it was important for the government to show that people came before money, adding that a number of important decisions had been taken to improve people's quality of life.

The first he said was to dismantle the facility. Secondly, he said a decision was taken to move it elsewhere.

"We took the decision to reduce our dependency on oil but also to sacrifice income for Enemed from its bunkering activity which, were it to continue, would have required the government to find ODZ land to substitute the site," Muscat said.

He said that instead a decision was taken to sacrifice financial gain in order to use the tanks currently used for bunkering for the storage of domestic fuels.

Muscat noted that the tanks being dismantled had been erected in 1919 and were still being used up until very recently.

"How can a modern European country have infrastructure that remembers Sette Guigno, Muscat said.

Moreover, he said that the government wanted to make it clear that it does not consider the south to be a place of social problems or a dumping ground for facilities unwanted elsewhere and that it should be valued as every other part of the country.

In addition to this, he stressed that the decommissioning was made possible during a time which saw the government shift to a cleaner method of electricity generation and while Enemalta had registered a profit.

OPM minister Konrad Mizzi addressing a press conference on the decommissioning of the storage tanks
OPM minister Konrad Mizzi addressing a press conference on the decommissioning of the storage tanks
Minister Konrad Mizzi said that today’s work was starting "to clean the 31st March site in Birzebbugia once and for all".

He said the site was 38,000 square meters and had been operating since the 1920s.

"The site used to provide the country's requirements of diesel, petrol and jet fuel," Mizzi said. 

He explained that when the site had originally been built, the area was not a residential one, however, with time, dwellings were built closer and closer to the facility.

Mizzi said that throughout the years this had become a concern and that the previous administration had proposed moving the facility to Kordin, however this was rejected due to the proposed sites proximity to MCAST. Has-Saptan was then identified as an alternative site, however this was also rejected over environmental concerns, Mizzi added.

"In the first year of the legislature, we were given a clear brief, that the facility was to be closed once and for all," he said, adding that it was decided that the tanks would not be rebuilt and the use of oil would be reduced by shifting the use of existing tanks at Has-Saptan from oil bunkering – fuel stored to be sold abroad – to a storage for Malta’s needs.

"The tanks there are underpins and there is no need to build new tanks," he said. "This will obviously come at a cost to Enemed however it was decided that the environmental benefits outweighed their actual use."

He said that yesterday the Planning Authority had given the go ahead for the facility to be converted and used for domestic fuels, meaning the decommissioning of the site can go ahead.

Mizzi explained that once the first tank is demolished the administration office right behind it will follow, opening up a space for work on the decommissioning of the site to take place.

Responding to questions on Pilatus Bank and whether in his opinion, if it transpires that authorities had investigated the bank and not taken any action, this would indeed amount to a failure of Malta's institutions, Muscat stressed that it was not his role to attack institutions.

"I believe that those with a constitutional role have an obligation to defend institutions and not attack them,” Muscat said. "When the court took two seats from us despite the majority we won in the election, I admitted I did not agree but I did not attack the institutions."

Yannick joined MaltaToday as a journalist in 2016. His main areas of interest are politics...