On March 19, just as President Kenyatta was proclaiming a national day of prayer over Covid-19, an oil tanker, MT Ocean Tiara, arrived at the port of Mombasa loaded with 75 million litres of super petrol.
The cargo No. K07/2020 had been imported by Asharami Synergy Limited, a subsidiary of a Nigerian oil conglomerate which has footprint in several African countries.
It was only after the vessel berthed at the Kipevu oil terminal on Wednesday, April 1 - the day the country was glued to the news that the first Covid-19 patient had left hospital - that it was realised that the quality on board did not correspond with the paperwork.
Documents seen by the Nation indicate that the paperwork indicated that the final boiling point (FBP) of the cargo was within the required parameters and met the Kenya Bureau of Standards FBP of 200 degrees Celsius.
Had the Kenya Pipeline Company officers not retested the cargo, chances are that a huge amount of substandard cargo would have landed into the country. It had also been priced off February crude prices which was higher than current prices and which meant that Kenyan would have paid more for it.
"Again, when we sampled the cargo, we found that it had a FBP of 204 degrees Celsius and thus could not be allowed into the country," a senior official told the Nation.
It is now known that the vessel owners had appointed their own representative to witness the testing, which is normally done at the KPC laboratory.
This sampling was witnessed by representatives of Sahara Group and Asharami Synergy and it confirmed the previous findings.
"We then asked the vessel to vacate the Kipevu oil terminal berth to give way to other vessels," says an official. Although the vessel left the harbour, and has been in the deep sea off Diani coast, some interests started to push for the offloading of the cargo as interests set it.
Also, its London-based lawyers HFW and which has a large portfolio of maritime clients, sent a letter to Nairobi dated April 5 demanding for another test - and if there was no such an agreement, they requested that the samples be taken to the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KeBS) whose finding would be deemed final.
We have learnt that the Kebs test also confirmed the initial findings. "We are not taking that cargo," a senior official to Nation.
Had that been done, according to insiders, the prices of fuel would have gone up in order to accommodate the cargo.
It was the first time that on oil tanker with substandard cargo had been turned away from Kipevu.
"We have a technical clause on the tolerable temperature in the Transport and Storage Agreement (TSA) with oil marketers but this was conveniently ignored," said an insider.
The Nation established that officials were getting pressurised to approve the cargo.
On April 2, the KPC Managing Director Dr Macharia Irungu wrote to Supplycor Kenya Ltd general manager Dr Rachel Mulungye informing her that the Cargo aboard MT Ocean Tiara had been rejected "due to failure to meet product quality parameter."
Supplycor is the umbrella company for all oil marketers in Kenya.
"The purpose of this letter is to advise that KPC will not handle the vessel and therefore the importer should arrange for the vessel to vacate the jetty immediately," said Dr Irungu's letter.
For many years, KPC had been used by cartels and it was the customers who footed the bill and failed to enjoy the drop in global prices. More so, marketers would also be told that their fuel was either stolen or leaked - and the bill would be picked, again, by consumers.
Whether MT Ocean Tiara knew that the cargo did not meet the Kenyan specifications is not clear. Again, whether it innocently carried the Load Port Quality certificate which indicated that the cargo had a final boiling point of 199.1 degrees might never be known given that it has been asked to leave.