Columnists Features

The role of ZWMA in the petroleum industry

AS mandated by the Weights and Measures Act No.12 of 2003, the Zambia Weights and Measures Agency (ZWMA) plays a significant role in the petroleum industry. When we talk of the petroleum industry, we are referring to all businesses that are engaged in the fuel sub-sector. These are TAZAMA Pipeline Limited, Indeni Oil Refinery Limited, TAZAMA Petroleum Products Limited, oil marketing companies, petroleum transportation companies, service station owners, and service technicians licensed by ZWMA to install, repair and maintain all measuring instruments used in the petroleum industry.
The ZWMA’s mandatory operations in the petroleum sector are to ensure that there is accuracy in terms of the quantity (volume) of fuel procured and distributed for sale in various service stations countrywide. This is done by ensuring that fuel bought and loaded onto road tank vehicles at Ndola Terminal by oil marketing companies to the point of offloading at service stations must be of accurate volumes as loaded from the terminal.
Any custody transfer of the commodity conveyed by road tank vehicles through the use of an offloading meter, for instance, requires that the said instrument (offloading meter) be verified by ZWMA to ensure that the meter is measuring accurately.
ZWMA as guided by the law, under Regulation 36 of the Weights and Measures Statutory Instrument No. 22 of 1993, permits the loading and offloading of fuel onto road tank vehicles through use of bulk flow meters, dipstick or Ullage Mark. The use of any of these methods shall be verified by ZWMA.
The current practice by ZWMA in verifying road tank vehicles or fuel compartments is by use of Ullage Mark System upon which verification certificates (assize certificates as are commonly known) are issued to petroleum transporter companies.
The Ullage Mark System is a method where a road tank vehicle is verified by means of marking the level of fuel in the compartment and stating the compartment capacity. For instance, for a 5,000 litre capacity compartment, the tank compartment will have a mark on the inside that indicates the level where fuel will be expected to reach for the compartment to be certified as having loaded 5,000 litres.
The Ullage Mark used in the verification process, is then locked by ZWMA to deter manipulation of the certified level of a verified fuel tank compartment. Tampering of the Ullage Mark by petroleum transporters to cheat unsuspecting recipients of the commodity, is punishable by law.
The role played by ZWMA, therefore, in ensuring that there is accuracy of volumes of fuel loaded and offloaded as the commodity is distributed in various points of sale, enhances sustainability of business of all players in the fuel sub-sector. Should a dispute arise during the course of commodity transfer, ZWMA shall be requested to resolve this dispute before effecting any action by either of the affected parties.
At fuel service stations, ZWMA ensures that fuel offered for sale to motorists and other consumers is sold in the right quantities. This is done through verification for accuracy of fuel nozzles used to dispense the commodity to consumers. The verification of fuel nozzles is undertaken countrywide biannually, in January and June.
The exercise is done through the use of a 20-litre measuring can, also be referred to as a Standard Check Measure. The Check Measure is used to test the accuracy of each and every fuel nozzle at all filling stations.
For a nozzle to pass the test of accuracy, it is expected that when 20 litres of fuel is dispensed from a said nozzle, it shall be undeniably 20 litres that flows through the nozzle to fill the 20 litre- Check Measure. The tolerable volumes in deficiency and in excess, however, shall apply. These are 10ml (in deficiency) and 20ml (in excess) for every 20 litres dispensed. In other words, it will be acceptable if a nozzle is tested for accuracy and it is found out that per every 20 litres it dispenses, there is a deficiency of 10ml which is about the volume of a teaspoon full. Similarly, if a nozzle is found to be dispensing 20ml more per every 20 litres demanded, this is acceptable as 20ml in excess is about the volume of a tablespoon full.
Once the nozzles pass the test of accuracy, they are locked in such a way that they are prevented from manipulation that may result in dispensing inaccurate volumes of the commodity contrary to what may be demanded by consumers. Verification stickers are consequently affixed on the dispensers to show validity of accuracy of the said nozzle.  Motorists and consumers are highly encouraged to look out for these stickers to be certain that they are being sold accurate volumes of fuel. During the first half of every year, a verification sticker at a filling station dispenser will show that a fuel nozzle’s accuracy is valid up to June of that year. In a like manner, during the second half of the year, the verification sticker on the fuel dispenser will show that it is valid up to December of that year.
This year’s ZWMA verification stickers are light green in colour. The exercise to verify all nozzles at filling stations is ongoing and is expected to be completed next month (February).
If fuel nozzles fail the test of accuracy, they are shut down and corrective measures are effected immediately before they can be used again. A nozzle which has failed the test of accuracy is affixed a Rejection Sticker. This is a sticker crossed with an X to show that it is inaccurate and therefore must not be in use.
Corrective action involves the use of a service technician licensed by ZWMA to calibrate the defective nozzles. After a fuel nozzle has been serviced by the licensed technician, ZWMA will re-verify the nozzle to ensure that it is dispensing accurate volumes of fuel.
Use of unlicensed service technicians to calibrate measuring instruments is punishable by law. All oil marketing companies are expected to comply with ZWMA at all times during installation, maintenance and servicing of all measuring instruments used in the petroleum industry.
Even after verification is done and fuel nozzles are provided with valid stickers, ZWMA still conducts spot checks on valid nozzles to monitor compliance. These random inspections enhance consumer protection as they give confidence that accurate measuring nozzles are being used in the sale of fuel.
In the same vein, ZWMA enhances profitability of businesses by ensuring that nozzles do not over-dispense fuel. Use of verified accurate fuel nozzles by service station owners helps them to minimise incurring avoidable losses.
Dear readers, look out for yet another interesting article on February 11, 2016. For queries, complaints and clarifications on this article or dissatisfaction of quantities of products you buy, please do not hesitate to contact:
The Chief Executive Officer
Zambia Weights and Measures Agency
Plot 2387 Longolongo Road
P.O Box 30989
Tel: +260 211 222294
Fax: +260 211 222297
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The author is Public Relations Officer at Zambia Weights and Measures Agency.

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