Closer Harmony for East African Lube Standards
Members of the East African Community are moving ever closer to regional integration of standards across a gamut of goods and services. Petroleum products are also in their sights. Shem Oirere looks at how they all plan to sing from the same specification sheet.
After a review process lasting nearly two decades, the standards agencies of five East Africa Community member states are expected to complete the harmonization of petroleum products testing and certification at the end of this year.
By 2016, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda had harmonized 70 new standards, which reduced the cost of testing by 59 percent and testing time by 70 percent, according to Trade Mark East Africa, a non-profit supporting growth of trade in East Africa.
The drive towards harmonization of standards for lubricants in the EAC aims to facilitate easy trade in these and related petroleum products, as one way of strengthening the economic integration of member states economies. Crucially, harmonization should eliminate the need for each of the national standards bodies to test finished lubricants whenever they are imported from another EAC member.
Testing lubricant quality is pivotal in efforts by EAC governments to combat fake and substandard oils that compromise safety and performance of end-user equipment. While harmonization will not directly address this problem, a standardization mark for legitimate products would finally be approved through the harmonization process.
Yes to EAS
Before 2019 closes, the EACs East Africa Standards Committee is expected to implement the EAS 159 specification, an automotive crankcase engine oil standard that sets minimum performance levels of API SF for products used in passenger cars and API CD for those used in heavy-duty diesel trucks. (API has declared both of those standards are now obsolete.)
The review of EAS 159 began in 2001, when a proposal was floated for the phased harmonization of the regions national fuel standards. This led to the enactment in 2006 of the EACs Standardization, Quality Assurance, Metrology and Testing Act. The act provides a framework for the development and implementation of SQMT activities in the EAC and stipulates the objectives for harmonization and provides for establishment of structures for harmonization.
Other EAC harmonization priority areas in the works include specifications for imported base oil, heavy fuel oils, engine coolant, brake fluids, gear oils, greases and hydraulic fluids.
Five EAC members – Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi – have already approved the mutual recognition of certification marks by their respective standards bureaus for various traded goods in the region, in addition to completing the harmonization of fuel standards.
Not Going it Alone
Currently, each EAC member tests and certifies greases and lubricants in their own markets in accordance with their own national standards, which are largely based on API guidelines. The Kenya Bureau of Standards, for example, inspects and tests all locally blended and imported greases and lubricants, as we wait for the finalization of the regional harmonized standards and related quality assurance procedures, Tom Oduor Okumu of the Kenya Bureau of Standards, told LubesnGreases. Where an oil marketing company trades in these petroleum products across the regions borders, then automatically the EAC Common Protocol rules kick in.
This means that although the EAC is striving for the free movement of goods, petroleum products are still subject to inspection to verify complicity with existing regulations.
One of the core features of the trade agreements within the East African Community and search [for] deeper regional integration is the harmonization of standards as a fundamental feature of our customs union, said Betty Maina, Kenyas principal secretary at the State Department of Investment and Industry and a former board member of the Kenya Manufacturers Association.
Rather than adopt one standard of Kenya or Uganda or any other country, it was agreed that we harmonize all the different features of our national standards and actually proceeded to harmonize the standards of most traded goods in the region, Maina said at a public forum attended by LubesnGreases on standardization in Kenya held in Nairobi last April.
We have not completed harmonization of every traded good, and so the countries sometimes default to their national or international standards, but again there is a process [dictating] which standards to default to, she said.
Maina added that there is need for a conversation within Africa on standards because the Africa Union has launched the operational phase of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. Regional standards are also needed to deliver market access for Kenyas manufacturers and service providers, she said.
One of the core features of the continental free trade agreement, which was launched in Niger in early July, is the development of Africas quality infrastructure institutions dealing with standardization, metrology and quality assurance. It is not yet clear how this process will be integrated with the progress that has already been made within EAC in terms of the harmonization of standards.
Nevertheless, ahead of the planned review and harmonization of engine oil standards in East Africa, Kenya continues to implement its two-regime process for testing the quality of grease and lubricants either imported into the country or blended locally.
Oil marketing companies that import grease and engine oils are required by law to arrange with international inspection companies that have been approved by Kenya Bureau of Standards to carry out testing of the products at the point of origin, said Gordon Onjore, head of the laboratory testing services department at the Kenya Bureau of Standards.
The bureau uses third-party inspection companies to carry out pre-export verification of conformity to ensure all imports, including grease and lubricants, comply with the Kenyan Technical Regulations and Mandatory Standards or approved specifications.
The importing oil marketing companies must ensure the testing is done and a certification of compliance issued before the lubricants enter Kenya, Onjore told LubesnGreases.
These chemical and physical tests determine viscosity, lubricity, additive content and flash point, among others. In Kenyas case, lubricants are classified as chemicals and the assessment of product compliance is based on KEBS Pre-Shipment Verification Conformity program.
Lubricant importers are required to notify contracted pre-shipment certification companies to issue them with certification of conformity to enable clearance of the lubricants at the port of entry.
The second regime involves the testing of locally blended lubricants, an initiative required for all oil marketing companies.
They are required to have the KEBS Standardization Mark on their product, which is issued after all the necessary testing for quality procedures have been done on the lubricants and the product certified to be of the right quality for release to the market, said Onjore.
The procedure requires a lubricant blending company to notify KEBS of its readiness for testing and certification of their lubricants. The blending company arranges a visit to the plant for inspection and the carrying out of laboratory tests similar to those carried out by the contracted pre-shipment inspection companies but now within our own KEBS laboratories, Onjore explained.
The certification to use the KEBS standardization mark of quality is valid for 12 months and should be renewed after samples of the blended lubricants have been subjected to fresh laboratory tests, he said.
Meanwhile, the process of achieving harmonized testing and certification of grease and lubricants in East Africa according to the EAC Common Market Protocol starts with the bureaus of standards in Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda formally receiving the proposal on the harmonization of the standard from the East Africa Standards Committee.
Although it is the EASC that proposes a common standard, the protocol allows the respective bureaus to prepare, where necessary, a modified or new standard proposal for submission to the regional standards committee for consideration. No time limit has been set for this phase.
The EASC is expected to prepare a work document or draft that either adopts an existing international standard or recommends new parameters for assessing the quality of the industrial and automotive engine oils before the five bureaus of standards are given an opportunity to give their comments on the draft and consensus built before a draft harmonized standard prepared.
The process will also involve the East Africa Standards Technical Sub-Committee that is expected to review any unresolved harmonization issues among the bureaus of standards to pave way for the submission of the draft to the EASC for approval and subsequent endorsement by the EACs Council of Ministers.
It is envisaged that coming up with a common specification for base oil, engine coolant, brake fluids, gear oils and greases should to be completed by 2020. This will eliminate the need for retesting for quality lubricants and engine oils being sold among EAC members hence encouraging seamless flow of trade and cutting down on business costs.