Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hundreds of used gas tanks imported into Vietnam

A large number of gas tanks which have been used for 14-16 years have been imported into Vietnam from Malaysia. These tanks are being filled with gas under Petronas brand to sell to users.

Gas traders in late 2007 buzzed that a foreign firm was importing used gas tanks into Vietnam. The rumour is now burning as there has been confirmation that the number of secondhand gas tanks imported into Vietnam is rising.

According to Tuoi Tre newspaper, in late December 2007, the first ten containers containing 11,000 used gas tanks landed at Cat Lai Port in HCM City. The importer of these tanks from Malaysia is Petronas Vietnam Company.

The import declaration dated December 14, 2007 notes that the 11,000 used gas tanks (12kg) are of 85% quality. According to import documents, most of these tanks were manufactured between 1992 and 1994. This means they were used by Malaysians for 14-16 years.

These gas tanks have been touched up (repainted, repaired or given new valves) and filled with gas to sell to Vietnamese users under Petronas Gas brand (which accounts for around 5% of the local gas market).

Since the first batch, many containers of used gas tanks have been imported through southern ports. At the same time, through another company, a large number of secondhand gas tanks have been imported from Malaysia to northern provinces. Most of these tanks have also been put on the market under Petronas Gas brand.

The General Director of Petronas Vietnam, Abu Hassan Burok, said the import of used gas tanks from Malaysia began in late 2007 and around 88,000 tanks have been imported in the south. The imports in the north are being conducted by another firm so he doesn’t know the exact figure.

“We haven’t done anything to violate the law so we will continue to import gas tanks into Vietnam depending on the market demand and our expansion in this market,” the general director said.

Used gas tanks are allowed to be imported into Vietnam. Petronas’ used gas tanks are declared on C/O form D so the importer enjoys the import tax rate of 5% only.
According to the director of a joint venture firm, around 300,000 gas tanks (12kg) have been imported into Vietnam by Petronas Co, Ltd (Malaysia), while another source says the number may be a million tanks in both the north and the south.

Abu Hassan Burok explained that in Malaysia, Petronas uses 12kg and 14kg gas tanks but Malaysian users prefer the 14kg tank so Petronas decided to take back all 12kg tanks to sell to its member companies in other countries, including Vietnam.

The manager confirmed that these gas tanks are verified by Vietnamese authorities and only up-to-standard tanks are used.

“We don’t declare a lifespan but every five years tanks are verified and if they pass tests they will continue to be used,” he said.

According a gas tank safety expert, in Vietnam the lifespan of gas tanks is 20 years. If they are maintained well, the lifespan may reach 25 years.

The Region 2 Centre for Technical Safety Testing under the Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs confirmed it had verified nearly 50,000 used gas tanks imported by Petronas and over 20,000 more are scheduled to be tested. Of the tested tanks, only 20 were rejected because of being out of shape and scratched.

However, Dang Vinh Sang, General Director of the one-member limited liability HCM City Oil and Gas Company, said pressure equipment must have CVs and must be monitored after they are manufactured. The test is necessary but not enough to confirm these gas tanks are safe.

Le The Bao, Chairman of the Anti-counterfeit Goods and Vietnam Trademark Protection Association, said the gas tank is an item requiring special safety standards and Vietnam should not import used tanks, even though they are tested by competent agencies. The association will propose the Ministry of Industry and Trade not permit the further import of used gas tanks.
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