By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK THE oil industry in Namibia faces temporary fuel supply disruptions, as a result of a temporary shutdown of South African oil refineries, which has also affected the country’s supply of petroleum. The latest shutdowns are further due to preparations for the phase out of leaded fuel in both countries by next year. Currently, Namibia receives 100 percent of its petroleum products from its southern neighbour, which is shipped to the country’s port harbour of Walvis Bay. Harald Schmidt of Namibia Oil Industry Association said yesterday: “Although all the refineries (in South Africa) are fully operational again since the beginning of this week, the monthly shipment supplies to Namibia were affected with delivery schedules having been postponed.” However, he urged the public not to panic because “there is enough cumulative fuel in the country”. Schmidt added that a supply boat is expected at the Walvis Bay harbour next week, reiterating the need for the public not to worry about the situation. “People need to remain calm about this because there is no need for them to rush to the service station to hoard fuel…the industry is doing all it can to manage the supply situation and will normalise by early next week,” he said, adding that the South African refineries are just getting their backlog up to speed up the change over from leaded to unleaded fuel before the due time in 2006. Although Namibia still uses leaded fuel, almost 85 percent of the world’s petrol is today lead free. From January 1, 2006, only unleaded petrol (ULP 95 Research Octance Number) and LP 93 will be available in Namibia. The decision to phase out the fuel has been approved by Cabinet and is part of the process that will see cleaner fuels in a bid to reduce harmful vehicle emissions as well as to promote fuel efficiency. In August this year, the Minister of Mines and Energy Erkki Nghimtina informed the public about the phasing out of leaded petrol. This means that lead will no longer be added to fuel and oil companies will no longer market it. At the time, Nghimtina said SADC ministers in October 2004 agreed to end the use of lead in petrol in their respective countries, and also agreed to make the necessary arrangements to accommodate the concerns that unleaded fuel is associated with. Subsequently, the ministry conducted an awareness campaign this year which cost N$450 000 in an effort to educate the public about the nearing change over to unleaded fuel that starts next month.
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