Petroleum Firms to Ration Fuel

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK In light of the temporary disruptions on fuel supply facing the Namibian oil industry due to the temporary shutdowns of South African oil refineries SASOL and Caltex, some local petroleum companies are planning to strategically ration fuel at some outlying filling stations in the country. Confirming this point to New Era yesterday, BP Namibia Managing Director Sibusiso Zulu said the current litres of petroleum in the country were not sufficient for business to operate normally. “It is not business as normal for now. We don’t have adequate fuel supply to trade as normally. For now, we have to ration in order to keep some of the fuel for strategic reasons in outlying service stations,” said Zulu. He explained that those to be supplied with fuel by his company are mainly strategic places like some filling stations, mines, emergency services for example hospitals, the Namibian Police and other government structures. Although all the refineries in South Africa, especially in the Western Cape province are currently operational, the monthly shipment supplies of petroleum to Namibia are affected with delivery schedules having been postponed. At the moment, Namibia receives the bulk of its petroleum products from South Africa, which are shipped to Walvis Bay. However, the current situation has prompted BP Namibia and Engen Namibia to opt for rationing some of their service stations through responsible principles. Echoing this sentiment, Managing Director of Engen Namibia Neil October said yesterday that while they were waiting for the shipment due on December 14, 2005, they were planning to ration. “We are trying to keep our service stations wet, but we will have to ration some of them … it is out of our control,” said October. Although the fuel is said to be sufficient, the situation remains tight for petroleum companies until such time as the first shipment comes next week, while the supply of fuel in the country is set to normalise completely after the second shipment due on December 25, 2005. “It has affected business and it is not sustainable because after the first shipment comes, we may just make it because some of the oil companies don’t have any prior stock and it is only when the second supply arrives that the situation will normalise,” said Zulu. Oil companies as well as the Ministry of Mines and Energy however say the situation is under control and there is no need for panic. People are urged not to start hoarding petrol. But this is exactly what happened on the first day of the announcement. Motorists were observed filling up at service stations and taking extra petrol in plastic containers. One Toyota van was spotted with two drums filling up at Wika Service station in town before noon yesterday. “There’s really no need to panic and we have to take the situation as it is,” said Minister Erkki Nghimtina. The minister explained that it was unexpected that both Sasol and Caltex would end up upgrading their oil refineries at the same time resulting in the postponements of shipments to Namibia. “The industry is doing all it can to manage the supply situation, and we hope to achieve normality by early next week,” reiterated Harald Schmidt of the Namibian Oil Industry Association. The temporary shutdowns were conducted in preparation for the region’s changeover from leaded to unleaded petrol as from January 01 next year. The current situation has affected countries like Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia who also depend on South Africa. The disruptions come at a time when most people are preparing to travel for the festive season. Streams of people could be seen crowding some service stations in town. “It is not really a big problem, there were about two to three guys with petrol cans here and we were just 10 percent busier than we would have been in a normal day. Some people even came around asking what’s going on,” said owner of the Wika Service Station Nick du Preez. He however advised people not to rush because there is a lot of Premium petrol and 99 percent of cars can use both premiums of petrol. Walters Motors Service Station in Pioniers Park experienced chaos yesterday morning, where the co-owner Jenny Beukes was glad about the exceptionally good business. “Some people came with cans and it was very busy. Others with two 200-litre drums we had to turn away because they have to provide us with a consumer licence from the Ministry of Trade that shows that they can take a huge stock of that amount,” explained Beukes. Just a few blocks from this station, Total and Caltex service stations were said to have run out of unleaded petrol as they waited for a reload of fuel late yesterday.

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