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Fuel shortage: Three member technical committee to probe those responsible

A three member technical committee comprising of officials with specialized technical knowledge in petroleum is to investigate into the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) to identify officials responsible for the recent fuel shortage.

The Cabinet Sub-Committee chaired by Minister of Special Assignments, Dr Sarath Amunugama had made the above recommendation due to the fact that even though their preliminary investigations found that CPC officials to be responsible for purchasing,storage and distribution of fuel needed to be held accountable for the recent fiasco, many of the issues which led to the shortage were persistent systematic issues and thus it was ‘difficult’ for the Cabinet Sub-Committee to identify those directly at fault.

They have however noted the following as the main root causes of the shortage: “Not making space to build buffer stocks in light of panic pumping and storage, not informing the political authorities of a possible shortage, no plan of action in place for such emergency situations, not maintaining emergency stocks which is a major need when managing stocks, not having a pricing formula and adopting a transparent purchasing mechanism (need to adopt term tenders), not acting to increase stocks despite previous ministers pointing out the need to do so to officials, no steps taken to quickly increase capacity, problems due to a lack of a long term decision on the Trincomalee oil tanks and no successful plan put in place to increase capacity using existing storage capabilities”.

Co-Cabinet Spokesperson, Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara addressing the weekly Cabinet media briefing yesterday also noted that Petroleum Resources Development Minister Arjuna Ranatunga would also need to take certain responsibility as the minister in charge.

He further explained that Ranatunga who had earlier suggested that there was political interference which led to the shortage has now denied making such allegations.

The Cabinet Sub-Committee which also comprised of Ministers Anura Priyadharshana Yapa, Patali Champika Ranawaka and Arjuna Ranatunga, pointed out that the immediate reason for the shortage was the delay in the ship Lade Nevaska which was carrying 30,000 MT of 92 petrol and 6,500 MT of 95 petrol to Sri Lanka until November 8. In addition, the breakdown of the Sapugaskanda oil refinery for three days had further aggravated the issue.

The CPC at the time it rejected the LIOC stocks had usable stocks of 116,978 MT (92 and 95).

The LIOC which caters to 16 percent of the market has a total capacity of 100,164 MT whilst the CPC has a capacity of 16,814MT in addition to 12,000 MT in 11 provincial warehouses and 1200MT in petrol sheds around the country.

Thus apart from petrol sheds, LIOC and CPC have a total capacity for both 92 and 95 of 128,000 MT.

Thus according to these figures, the committee pointed out that even if the rejected shipment of LIOC amounting to 20,000MT along with the CPC’s 36,500 (92 and 95) from Nevaska were to have arrived on time, it would only add up to a total of 56,500 MT-allowing the CPC to have plenty of space to stock up on buffer stocks.

The question thus is why were no steps taken to build a buffer?