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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Global oxygen tenders: Only three firms line up, for a fraction of supply

Sources said while two of the companies that have sent quotations are foreign, one is domestic, and they have offered to deliver the medical oxygen over three months, rather than the government's hope of three weeks.

Written by Harikishan Sharma | New Delhi |
Updated: May 14, 2021 7:49:06 am
global tender for Covid vaccines, global tender for oxygen, global oxygen tender, Covid vaccines shortage, oxygen shortage, oxygen supply shortage, Indian expressAround 1,200 cylinders from British Oxygen Company arrived from the UK in Delhi Thursday. (PTI/MEA)

The government has received three quotations for the supply of a total 3,500 metric tonnes of liquid medical oxygen (LMO), against its global tender for procurement of 50,000 MT imported LMO amid the surge in Covid-19 cases, The Indian Express has learnt.

Sources said while two of the companies that have sent quotations are foreign, one is domestic, and they have offered to deliver the medical oxygen over three months, rather than the government’s hope of three weeks.

Among the two overseas suppliers, while Singapore-based SSB Cryogenic Equipment Pte Ltd offered to supply 200 MT oxygen, Abu Dhabi-based M/s Gulf Industrial Gases has said it can supply 1,800 MT. The third company, Gujarat-based Ultra Pure Gases Ltd, has offered 1,500 MT.

In fact, a source said, the offer from Ultra Pure Gases Ltd is the only “successful quotation” as the company has agreed to deliver 500 MT of medical oxygen this month itself.

The government had asked for suppliers who could provide LMO as well as had tankers/containers. “These were the only suppliers who had both. Others said they didn’t have containers,” the source pointed out.

The government had floated the global tender on April 16 for procurement of LMO in 20-MT ISO containers for various hospitals of central and state governments. The government said at the time that it expected the supply of LMO to start within a few weeks.

In an expedited process, quotations were obtained on April 21. Announcing the same, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan had said the government had received proposals from several companies. “We had given an order to import 50,000 metric tonnes of medical oxygen… We have received expressions of interest from many foreign companies. The evaluation of these is underway. We will make a decision very soon… Generally, these companies take three weeks to dispatch the oxygen.”

The source said the Ministry of External Affairs and Indian Oil Corporation Limited are “talking to all major companies” in the Middle East, but so far there has been “no response”. Officials said the reason for the tepid response from the global companies is the non-availability of enough containers to transport the liquid oxygen.

“We have to procure enough containers if we have to import. Hope that situation does not arise,” said the source.

In addition to the global tender for 50,000 MT LMO, the Ministry of External Affairs is helping import about 2,285 MT of medical oxygen. Out of this, 250 MT has arrived from Bahrain and the UAE while the supply from Kuwait (1,505 MT) and France (600 MT) is expected soon, said the source.

The demand for medical oxygen has seen a sharp jump amid the second wave. As per government data, on May 8, nearly 50,000 Covid patients were in ICU across the country, with more than 14,500 on ventilator support, and above 1.37 lakh on oxygen support.

 

During the first peak in September, the highest was about 23,000 patients in ICUs, with less than 4,000 on ventilators, and around 40,000 on oxygen support.

The sale of LMO has increased multifold since March. “During the first wave, the maximum sale of 3,095 MT/day of LMO was seen on September 29, 2020. The sale of LMO grew more than five-fold from 1,559 MT/day on March 31, 2021, to over 8,000 MT mark by May 3, 2021,” the government said in a statement on May 10.

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