Return to the long fuel lines


Queues for fuel are resurfacing and the majority of filling stations outside of major cities are in danger of closing due to the suspension of fuel purchases on credit, which has created a difficult situation.

This is because of distribution errors that have taken place, says the Ministry of Power and Energy. The suspension of fuel purchases made on credit, however, has resulted in a serious scenario, and all drivers are receiving poor pay, as demonstrated by petroleum dealers and private fuel bowsers.

However, Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekara tweeted that distribution errors had been fixed and that more stocks had been sent out in recent days.

The needs for buses and school services have been met; however Ceylon Petroleum Storage Terminals Limited (CPSTL) will continue to distribute 4,000 MT of diesel and 3,000 MT of petrol per day.

However, the Ministry of Power and Energy claims the fuel queues were eliminated when fuel began to be sold through QR code, and there are currently no queues at any petrol station. “Long fuel queues have developed as a result of factors including delivery shortages, filling station payment delays,” they say.

Over 5 million transactions for the National Fuel Pass QR system have been recorded in the previous two weeks.

Is this a start?

Petroleum dealers claimed that the increased tax levied on filling stations operated by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) on 1 July had pushed them to incur losses that could cause their businesses to fail.

Co-secretary of the Petroleum Dealers’ Association (PDA) Kapila Naotunna said the tax is equal to 45 per cent of the commission they earn.

He estimates that there are about 900 dealer-owned category fuel stations and about 250 CPC-run fuel stations throughout the nation. He claimed they receive roughly three per cent of the needed commission from the revenue and that they now must pay tax on that as well.

“Approximately 0.25 per cent of the commission’s rental as well as 45 per cent of the commission’s tax are due from the CPC-owned fuel stations. There are two Court proceedings related to this and they will submit arguments in this regard. The PDA asserted that the filling stations are not receiving enough fuel, which has become a serious problem despite the National Fuel Pass QR code system being implemented at numerous Ceypetco and Lanka IOC fuelling stations,” he said.

Naotunna claimed that although lines were shortening to some extent, they were far from being eliminated since some motorists who came to refuel with a National Fuel Pass had been forced to depart empty-handed. If the Government can deliver at least one bowser to a filling station each day, the National Fuel Pass QR code system could succeed, he said.

However, he said there were no reports of fights at gas stations or in fuel lines because so many motorists and petrol outlets had registered with the QR code system.

Lack of funds

The main reason for the return of fuel lines outside filling stations, according to Naotunna, is that petroleum dealers lack the financial means to pay for the fuel loads for their filling stations. He noted that they must deposit Rs 6 million with the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation by 9:30 a.m. on days when the petrol bowser arrives at the fuel station. He asserted that the dealers are having trouble paying for the fuel supply in cash because of the customary procedure and the poor financial situation.

He claimed that even banks, both State-owned and private, have ceased writing cheques, and that the CPC now demands cash in hand when purchasing fuel inventories. He claimed that on days when a dealer is able to get funds and place an order for fuel stock, the CPC occasionally forgets to dispatch a bowser.

“This annoys me. We finally manage to make a deposit, but the CPC still refuses to give us the stocks for that day. The dealers and owners of the gas stations have given up this procedure and, as a result, they have closed the gas stations and are currently short on cash and fuel,” he said. .

The failure of the distribution manager at Ceylon Petroleum Storage Terminals Limited was the catalyst. He is in charge of carrying out the directions, and it looks that he has other obligations, according to Naotunna.

Even though the QR code system is in place, Naotunna urged the Government to look at their issues, and if not, fuel queues might be longer than they have ever been.

Three factors

The main cause of the resurgence of fuel lines at filling stations on Thursday (25) and Friday (26) last month was the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation’s (CPC) delay in fuel distribution.

 A Ministry spokesman claims that three causes, including the CPC’s delay on 25 and 26 August, are to blame for the resurgence of fuel lines. The other two reasons, according to him, are that Monday is the start day of the new week and that Sunday is the last day to receive the weekly petrol quota.

As a result, the official stated, “the fuel lines seen over the past several days may be foreseen. He did tell them that there would be enough fuel in the CPC’s stock to last until the subsequent fuel shipments arrived in the nation,”.

His final reason was that people had started panic buying once more out of concern over the appearance of lines. He stated that each day, 4,000 MT of fuel and 3,000 MT of petrol would be made available to filling stations.

Reducing number of bowsers

Due to a disagreement over the monthly allowance granted to bowser drivers between bowser owners and the CPC, the percentage of bowsers used to distribute fuel has been cut to 40 per cent.

Because of this, just 250 bowsers are being employed to deliver petroleum to filling stations all around the island. Since the CPC has not raised the drivers’ monthly allowance, according to Shantha Silva, Secretary of the Ceylon Petroleum Private Tanker Owners’ Association, the owners have resigned from their positions.

However, the CPC has informed them that their allowances will be enhanced. He pointed out that although fuel prices rose, allowances did not. According to him, the company typically pays Rs 400 per kilometre but has pledged to raise it to Rs 550. He asserts that the decrease in bowsers is negligible now that the National Fuel Pass system is in operation.

According to him, just 250 to 300 bowsers are being used to distribute fuel instead of the typical 800. Silva continued, “There is a fuel distribution issue.” He asserted that the Muthurajawela terminal had only given diesel during the previous few days when it ought to have distributed both petrol and diesel. He asserts, however, that the re-emergence of the lines is the result of poor management of the fuel distribution system.

No shortage in fuel

According to the CPC, it has adequate fuel reserves to supply all needs, including diesel, petrol, and kerosene. The Sapugaskanda refinery has started operations, according to a special statement from the CPC, and all required actions have been taken to keep refining and supplying petroleum.

 Diesel, petrol, and kerosene are all produced in the Sapugaskanda Refinery. In addition to crude oil, imported fuel may be found at the storage facilities in Kolonnawa and Muthurajawela.

They said that the distribution of fuel has been sped up to prevent a scarcity and to lessen traffic at filling stations. The CPC warns the people not to believe rumours of a fuel scarcity and says that the essential procurement procedures for the future oil supply are also being finished. The ministry’s official assured the public that there is no shortage of fuel and that the lines will disperse in a few days.

Public transport in limbo

All Ceylon Private Bus Owners’ Association Chairman Anjana said, the number of private bus travels has been decreased by 80 per cent from 29 August, because the Sri Lanka Transport Board and private buses have not received the necessary fuel.

While petrol was delivered last month under a suitable system, he claimed that private buses have been restricted for the previous four days due to a lack of fuel and that a remedy should be made available.

He added that the Government should be held responsible because the disruption of bus services on a day of school and office activity has a significant negative impact on kids, teachers, and office workers.

The new ‘School  Bus Service introduced by the Ministry of Transportation will have to stop operating due to a shortage of petrol, claim the bus owners. They claimed that 130 buses on 47 routes in the Western Province started operating during the initial phase of this bus service, however on 23 July, the Sri Lanka Transport Board depots ran out of petrol, causing the ‘school service’ to be suspended.

The bus owners have alerted the regional offices about this issue, and as a result, after discussing it with the SLTB depot, they would be granted priority and the facilities needed to collect petrol, according to a senior official of the Road Passenger Transport Authority – Western Province.

By Thameenah Razeek