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Shiny new...A four-tank, 32 million litre fuel terminal will be commissioned in Timaru next month. PHOTO: CHRIS TOBIN

by Chris Tobin

South Canterbury’s economy is to receive a post-Covid 19 lockdown boost with Timaru Oil Services Ltd’s new terminal in Timaru being commissioned early next month.

A four-tank, 32million-litre terminal has been constructed on Timaru’s waterfront and a 1250m underground pipeline from Chapman St wharf to the site installed in a project managing director Philippe Dubau, of Tahiti, said cost “in the $40million-dollar” range.

“Our first vessel just left South Korea and should be in Timaru mid-June while commercial operations, truck deliveries, will start in early July as planned.”

The terminal would be able to supply fuel as far south as Bluff and Queenstown and north to Kaikoura.

“We will employ roughly 10 people directly – the terminal manager, assistant manager as well as others, and indirectly maintenance teams and unloading teams.”

The fuel importing company has consent to add two six million-litre tanks on site later.

Mr Dubau said Covid-19 had come as a major frustration and until the lockdown the project was two months ahead of schedule.

“We had to suspend works 10 days prior to completion of most construction tasks.

“Anyway, as we have mostly dealt with local contractors, which is our company policy, we have been able to get most people back on site under [Alert] Level 3 when inter-regional travel was banned.

“Our health safety security manager has implemented strict rules in order to have all guys protected while working. We would hate to have a Covid transmission on site.”

Last year the Commerce Commission reported it was a challenge for new entrants in the retail fuel industry. Most of the country’s coastal shipping, fuel storage and pipelines is controlled by three major companies – Mobil, Z Energy and BP – which together sold about 90% of the country’s petrol and diesel.

The Commerce Commission said Timaru Oil Services would need to sell or have a client selling close to 200million litres of fuel a year to make the Timaru terminal viable.

The land in Fraser St where the terminal has been built is owned by the Timaru District Council’s commercial arm, Timaru District Holdings Ltd, and leased to Timaru Oil Services Ltd which was established in September 2016 by its parent company, Pacific Petroleum of Tahiti.

Pacific Petroleum owns BP, Mobil and Shell operations in French Polynesia, Fiji, Tonga, American Samoa, Vanuatu, the Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea and Tuvalu.

The company planned to build a terminal at Port of Tauranga also. Mr Dubau said this was still in the consenting stages.