Gas Stations Worried Over New Safety Standards

Gas station owners on Monday voiced their concerns about conflicting rules on fire safety that will soon come into effect, pointing out that they will be expected to receive approval for the layout of their gas stations from three different ministries.

The Ministry of Mines and Energy on Monday invited the owners, along with local officials, to a workshop at the Cambodia-Korea Cooperation Center in Phnom Penh to discuss how best to implement a new circular on gas station safety issued by the ministry in late November.

However, at the beginning of the event’s question-and-answer session, the chief of the Phnom Penh fire department, Neth Vantha, noted that the Mines and Energy Ministry’s new rules clashed with a proclamation that the Interior Ministry is currently drafting on fire safety at gas stations.

The November circular orders gas stations, which are often located in dense residential areas, to be built on plots of land measuring at least 375 square meters. Mr. Vantha said the Interior Ministry’s forthcoming rules would call for a much larger area.

“We have noticed and seen that what we are talking about today could go against a publication that we are preparing at the Interior Ministry,” he said.

“Regarding the 375 square meters stated in the circular, this is rather different from our 500-square-meter area that we determined in our ministry’s proclamation that is ready to reach the deputy prime minister [Sar Kheng] for adoption. So which one will the people use in terms of fire safety at gasoline stations?” he added.

Dith Tina, secretary of state at the Mines and Energy Ministry, said fire department officials could have spoken up before if they thought the circular needed changes.

“When this circular was not yet in effect, we organized a workshop at the Cambodiana hotel that fire department officials also attended. But at that time, you did not mention about the 500 square meters,” he told Mr. Vantha.

Gas station owners at the meeting expressed confusion about the new rules, pointing out that there was an existing Ministry of Land Management law requiring gas stations to be built on 600-square-meter plots of land. They said the process of getting approval from three separate ministries for their gas stations would be onerous and expensive.

“For example, we need to have the Land Management Ministry’s cadastral department prepare the layout of the gasoline station and the Mines Ministry evaluate the technical part for us,” said Sun Pros, owner of the Ba Hokim gas station on National Road 8A in Prey Veng province. “This requires time and money.”

Sok Sambo, owner of the Depot Tela Samrong in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district, called the new rules “complicated and confusing.”

“The Ministry of Mines and Energy requires 375 squares meters of land for safety standards in gasoline station construction, while the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Land Management require 500 and 600 square meters, respectively…. I only have 400 square meters of land and I can’t afford to buy more. I don’t know what to do.”

Mr. Tina of the Mines and Energy Ministry told the workshop’s attendees that gas station owners must abide by the different requirements set by each government body.

Approval by his ministry “does not mean that it is enough for the station owner, meaning that they have to submit the proposal to other relevant bodies like local authorities and the fire department, which could still reject the proposal,” Mr. Tina said.

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