After being informed of the beachfront refuelling by The Phuket News three weeks ago, Rawai Mayor Aroon Solos at first said that he was aware of the practice, especially as Rawai Beach is literally right out the front door of the Rawai Municipality offices.
But only this past week did Mayor Aroon concede that it was dangerous and that he had instructed his officers to take steps to ensure the beach refuelling stops.
However, he noted, “Rawai Municipality is limited in the regulations that we are empowered to enforce, so the Phuket Energy Office has been notified and will respond and take action on this.
“It is their direct responsibility, and I will support them in doing their job,” he added.
Pannee Raknai, Chief Administrative Officer (Palad) and Chief of the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation division at Rawai Municipality (DDPM-Rawai), was clear in her understanding of the situation.
“This (refuelling) cannot be done in a public area. It is dangerous for people living near there and may result in damage to the environment,” she said.
“We reported this to the Phuket Energy Office on May 21. We are waiting for their reply, as we do not have the direct authority to stop people doing this,” Ms Pannee added.
“In this respect, we are only empowered to enforce laws concerning any pollution, so if there were any spillage or other form of polluting on the beach, we could call in the police and have the culprits fined up to B10,000 – but we are powerless to prevent people from refuelling their boats directly from the beach,” she explained.
To this, Wirot Damkong, Chief of the Phuket office of the Ministry of Energy, told The Phuket News on Wednesday (May 30) that his office will take action as soon as this coming week.
“I received a formal request from Rawai Municipality about this on Friday (May 25). This behaviour is illegal under the Fuel Oils Control Act,” Mr Wirot said.
“We will call in everyone involved – the workers actually doing the refuelling, speedboat captains and representatives of the companies involved – to a meeting at Rawai Municipality next week to warn them that they can no longer do this.
“If they continue to break the law, we will fine them,” Mr Wirot warned, though he declined to specify which sections of the Act the practice breaches or what penalty repeat offenders would face.
However, he added, “It (beach refuelling) is clearly illegal under the Act. For example, any persons operating a refuelling operation or just commercially transporting fuels must have a permit to do so,” he added.
On this point Phuket Marine Office Chief Surat Sirisaiyat declined to answer any questions or comment on the issue.
Looking forward, Mr Wirot noted, “Our next step is to draw up plans to create a safe place in the area where these boats can be refuelled. It must to be a controlled area and reduce the exposure of risk to others.
“We also know that Rawai is not the only place in Phuket where this happens. We know this also happens in Cherng Talay,” Mr Wirot pointed out.
“We will bring the same attention to this at other beaches in Phuket after we have dealt with the situation in Rawai,” he said.