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Govt fast-tracks import of oxygen cylinders, Indian firms warn it could lead to poor quality

To mitigate the ban on use of industrial oxygen, the approval process for global manufacturers has been made completely virtual, cutting down the time from six weeks to a few days.

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New Delhi: With the domestic cylinder (oxygen and others) manufacturing industry hit by the ban on industrial use of oxygen, the Government of India has decided to fast-track approvals for global manufacturers of oxygen cylinders and cryogenic tankers to facilitate the quick import of these items into India.

The Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organization (PESO), the body granting these approvals, has done away with the requirement of physical inspection of the production units of these global manufacturers. Instead, the approval process will now be completely virtual, with manufacturers required to upload the necessary documents on the PESO website.

“Earlier, approvals for global manufacturers of oxygen cylinders and cryogenic tankers used to take more than six months. Now, the approval should come within a few days, after the application is filed online,” said an official at PESO, the government’s nodal agency for regulating safety of hazardous substances.

“We will still insist on all reports necessary from a safety point of view, including third party inspection, ISO certification and design specifications being shared, to see if they match the Indian requirements,” the official added.

The virtual granting of approvals has been opened up for all countries including China, Japan and European countries, the official added.

PESO has been trying to fast-track prior pending applications. Earlier this month, it granted approval to 10 foreign manufacturers and 13 domestic manufacturers of high-pressure seamless oxygen cylinders. Of the 10 foreign manufacturers who were granted approval, five were Chinese manufacturers, according to details available on its website.

Meanwhile, domestic manufacturers have warned the government against markets being flooded with poor quality of imports and requested that oxygen supply be restored to their plants to facilitate domestic production.

Also read: What is medical triage & how it could be the way out of India’s oxygen crisis

Domestic capacity of 1 lakh cylinders per month unused

The Indian cylinder manufacturing industry has a capacity of one lakh units per month. In a meeting on 1 May chaired by Shailendra Singh, additional secretary, department of promotion of industry and internal trade, domestic manufacturers pointed out that while they are willing to divert capacity for other cylinders, the problem is that manufacturing units have come to a standstill because of lack of oxygen.

“There is sufficient capacity available within the country to meet the demand for cylinders, provided the GOI provides unhindered supply of oxygen to the manufacturing units. The present capacity for oxygen cylinders is more than 1 lakh cylinders per month. If required, the existing capacity for manufacturing other cylinders can be used for manufacturing oxygen cylinders. Also, the existing capacity can be augmented at short notice, if sufficient demand is there. Cylinder manufacturers also apprised that presently their manufacturing plants are shut down because of non-availability of oxygen. They requested that oxygen supply may be restored to their plants on a priority basis to meet the surge in demand,” domestic cylinder manufacturers were quoted as saying in the recorded minutes of the meeting, of which ThePrint has a copy.

According to the document, domestic manufacturers have also pointed out that this is a highly sensitive and safety related product, as it is operated at pressures of 150 bar and above. Allowing imports of such high-pressure cylinders without proper verification will lead to flooding of cheap quality of cylinders, which may cause more harm than good.

While the oxygen cylinder manufacturing industry is among those still allowed to use oxygen amidst a massive countrywide shortage of medical oxygen, effectively the shortage is so bad that quota from a lot of exempted industries is currently being diverted for use in hospitals, industry sources said.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

Also read: India’s oxygen emergency is more logistical


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