Pertamina fires director over fatal fuel storage blaze

The move comes after a deadly blaze at an oil and gas depot in North Jakarta killed at least 19 people on March 3.

Aditya Hadi

Aditya Hadi

The Jakarta Post


People look at ruined houses in Plumpang, North Jakarta, on March 4, 2023, after a fire at a nearby state-run fuel storage depot run by energy firm Pertamina. (AFP/Aditya Aji)

March 9, 2023

JAKARTA – Pertamina announced on Wednesday that it had “honorably discharged” Dedi Sunardi, the director of business support at the state-owned energy holding company. Dedi had held the position since May 2021.

His place will be filled by Erry Widiastono, Pertamina’s director of logistics and infrastructure. Erry is to keep both positions until the oil and gas giant picks a definitive replacement for Dedi.

“As a company, we thank [Dedi] for his dedication while holding that position,” Pertamina vice president of corporate communications Fadjar Djoko Santoso said in a statement on Wednesday.

The move comes after a deadly blaze at Pertamina’s Plumpang depot in North Jakarta that killed at least 19 people living nearby on Friday. The facility supplies 25 percent of Indonesia’s fuel needs.

The fire, which started at around 8 p.m. in a fuel pipe at the depot, quickly spread to surrounding houses and sent residents of the densely populated area into a panic, before firefighters extinguished the flames on Saturday morning.

Pertamina directors have been sacked following incidents in the past. In 2018, the company’s then-president director Elia Massa Manik was sacked over an oil spill in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan. Pertamina’s marketing director, processing director, asset management director and petrochemical and processing megaproject director were also dismissed.

State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) Minister Erick Thohir said on Saturday, as quoted from Tempo, he would not hesitate to fire another Pertamina director over repeated accidents, saying “If needed, I will do it again”.

However, calls to take more stringent action have also been made that include firing Pertamina CEO Nicke Widyawati.

“This is a tragedy. Who should be held responsible over the lost lives? It has to be the Pertamina CEO,” Gadjah Mada University energy expert, Fahmy Radhi told Tempo on Sunday.

Relocation dilemma

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has instructed his aides to find solutions regarding the incident, as well as a safety audit of state-run facilities across the country that pose a similar hazard to nearby communities.

Similar calls were also made by lawmakers in the House of Representatives, which led to a scheduled hearing with the leadership of Pertamina in the next sitting session on March 13.

Other solutions being discussed include either moving the fuel depot out of the residential area, or simply relocating the residents themselves to a site located far from the depot.

Minister Erick said on Monday, that he preferred Pertamina to relocate its integrated fuel storage depot in Plumpang to a new location owned by state-run port operator PT Pelabuhan Indonesia (Pelindo).

“The construction will commence at the end of 2024, which will take between two and two and a half years to complete,” Erick said in a video statement after a coordination meeting.

The solution was in line with the idea proposed by Vice President Ma’ruf Amin during his visit to evacuation shelters for people displaced by the disaster on Saturday.

While waiting for the construction, Erick proposed extending a buffer zone around the Plumpang depot by 50 meters to avoid similar incidents, potentially forcing several residents out of their homes. Similar precautionary moves would also be implemented in other Pertamina facilities.

However, Coordinating Maritime and Investment Affairs Minister, Luhut Pandjaitan opposed the plan. The fuel storage facility should remain in place given its strategic role in providing the fuel supply for Greater Jakarta, he said, opting to relocate the residents instead.

“Don’t twist this around. Plumpang was designed to be in the area complete with its buffer zone. It should not be relocated. It is the people living around the area who should be relocated,” Luhut said in his speech at an Indonesian Navy event on Monday.

Luhut explained that the government could compensate those evicted from the area around Plumpang or relocate them to vertical housing built by the state.

The senior minister also blamed previous government officials who he deemed responsible for issuing permits so that the residents around Plumpang could remain in the area.

“This should not happen again in the future. It’s just wrong,” Luhut said.

The incident has re-sparked a debate on the legal status of the residents, who live in the vicinity of Pertamina’s depot, and led to a blame game that involves then-Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan and Jokowi, who was Jakarta governor for two years until 2014.

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