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That awful ‘Fuel Crisis’

Dear MOTOR readers, when you read this column in December the ‘Fuel Crisis’ would be history. Yet at moment of penning my ‘Snippets’ we are in throes of a pretty long drawn out fuel-less stretch. Scapegoats are being named and shamed for this totally preventable fiasco! End of the day it is us – the harried drivers & riders who have suffered the consequences, wasting much time and effort, idly waiting in almost stationary ‘petrol lines’; yes, some had inched along, grinding their teeth until their turn came up – only to return empty handed or rather with NO fuel to add to fuel tank!

Footnote: ‘Snippets’ has never joined a ‘fuel queue’ ever as he tops up as a habit when just 20% of tank is used always; that way he could go on for at least a fortnight without re-fuelling. Stich in time saves nine!


Accusations aplenty – who was really to blame?

Much hot air was spewed by mostly irate motorists [with some TV stations and journalists having a field day by posing obviously provocative questions from those drivers of cars, Tuk-Tuk guys etc who mostly wanted the Government to pack up & go home! So much for the new found freedom of the Press, a la ‘Right to Information Act’ with NO White Vans close by!] yet one gnawing question appeared on lips of the discerning motoring public: “How could a mere parcel of fuel being turned down due to alleged impurities result in this chain reaction of an island-wide fuel crisis?  Come on, didn’t the fuel authorities have sufficient stocks to meet such an eventuality?”


“If CPC had enough [fuel] stocks, this situation wouldn’t have occurred”

In the wake of the Petroleum Minister no less, squarely blaming LIOC for the crisis, let ‘Snippets’ reproduce extracts of official statement by LIOC countering this serious allegation: “LIOC Refutes all allegations: …..attempts by some to blame LIOC for causing the shortage are mischievous and factually incorrect, and we categorically reject such allegations.”


The LIOC statement continues: “It may be noted that LIOC caters to only 16% of the Sri Lankan market, while the remaining 84% relies on CPC supplies. Thus, large shortages across the country can only be caused by disruption in supplies of CPC. Average daily sales of LIOC is 600 MT of petrol. Against this, as on date, LIOC has a buffer stock of 3,500 MT of petrol at the Common User Facility [CUF] which is managed by CPSTL. It may be noted that LIOC has adequate stocks of diesel at both Trincomalee terminal & at CUF and normal diesel sales of 775 MT is continuously happening from all our sheds across the country. It is total misrepresentation of facts that diesel is not being sold by LIOC shed.”


“LIOC is a professionally managed subsidiary of Fortune 500 Global company and plans its product requirement well in advance and maintains necessary stocks,“the LIOC statement affirms.


Re LIOC’s recent shipment: “LIOC had procured a shipment [parcel] of 35,000 MT of petrol from the French oil company M/s TOTAL on DAP [Delivery at Place] basis, which arrived in Sri Lanka on 16 October 2017. As per routine procedure, the petrol was tested by CPC/CPSTL laboratory before being accepted by LIOC. It was found that while the parcel met the chemical properties specification, it contained some visible particles. CPC/CPSTL laboratory as well as LIOC refused to accept the parcel. LIOC maintains its own high quality standards, which it does not compromise at any cost.”


LIOC immediately informed M/s TOTAL to replace the parcel: “It may be noted that ownership of the product remains with M/s TOTAL till it satisfies the requirements of LIOC and CPC/CPSTL laboratory. Once a parcel is rejected, LIOC has no further role thereafter and it is the seller’s own sole discretion / responsibility to decide when to take out the vessel from Sri Lankan waters.”

M/s TOTAL offered to remove the particles through filtration: “As a replacement cargo would have taken at least 25-30 days, M/s TOTAL offered to remove the particles through filtration process which is a common industry practice, in order to enable expedited delivery by 3-4 November 2017 to manage the present crisis. For reasons unknown to us, this proposal was not acceptable to CPC officials.


“Hence LIOC asked M/s TOTAL to replace the parcel completely. Allegations that LIOC pressurized CPC to accept the original parcel without correction are totally false.” So the Minister’s charge is incorrect!


LIOC counters serious allegation that it tried to sell sub-standard Diesel. The allegation that LIOC tried to sell sub-standard Diesel is totally malicious and frivolous. In fact the diesel proposed to be imported was of much better quality as per International Standards. However, since the country is still having old specifications for diesel, CPC informed that they demand SL specifications for diesel irrespective the quality of diesel and accordingly, LIOC decided not to procure.” Isn’t it time SL gets higher spec Diesel?


Snippets adds: Thank Goodness that fuel with impurities did not reach the market! Remember an earlier era when the then Government ‘force-fed’ us motorists with sub-standard fuel, inevitably stalling vehicles here there and everywhere? I remember getting stuck at 11pm on way upcountry – it was not funny! Many were such scare stories from exasperated motorists who had to tow their cars to garages!


For The Record

For the record both the Parliamentary ‘Select Committee’ and the PM have affirmed that the LIOC was NOT to be blamed for the ‘Fuel Crisis’. May we urge the authorities to ensure that ordering, testing, accepting and distributing of fuel consignments have to be done competently and crisis management for each step has to be set in place – basics of management, [at least in private sector, really!] Then in case of an emergency, it must be clearly, competently and professionally communicated to the public.

Time to liberalize the sector: Snippets recalls how the general appearance of ‘Petrol Sheds’ dramatically improved with the advent of Lanka IOC – mini markets too came up next to the scrupulously clean – one time dusty, grimy old petrol sheds! Reading thru LIOC statement based on verifiable facts it is apparent that SL needs more globally proven private sector participation. So GOSL, do please liberalize petroleum sector competing with CPC & LIOC; each entity offered say 25% slot of SL’s petroleum market. Do have more options in petroleum products for discriminating motorists say with premium higher specs for diesel and higher Octane petrol rating etc and the very best [at a price of course!] of lubricants.


Apart from LIOC, what about PETRONAS from Malaysia?

If Petronas is good enough to fuel World F1 Champion’s Mercedes, we are sure that SL vehicles would also benefit! [Understatement on purpose!]


Invincible ‘Pick Ups’

Let me quote former CAR editor Gavin Green: “I’ve always liked Pick-Ups. Like most working vehicles, they have character. Ex-Ford boss Jac Nasser likened America’s fondness for the pick-up to their frontier spirit. They are the modern equivalent of the horse. In Britain, they come with manly names like Warrior, Barbarian [Mitsubishi], Invincible [Toyota], Wildtrack [Ford]. They are not aimed at chaps who drink skinny lattes and eat lentils.”! That explains why ‘Snippets’ a toughened Tea planter of 38 years still drives a ‘Thunder’ Ford Ranger. And yes, he love his roast beef and pork chops!


A case for older well cared for vehicles

Snippets loves encountering well-used vehicles, still providing loyal service. A friend has a lovely W123 Mercedes, at least 35 years old. Another mate a tough as nails ‘Hi-Lux’ still going strong after a quarter century of use! Owning a Hilux is like owning a piece of rock!

Long live fossil-fueled cars/Pick Ups/SUVs with many years of loyal service still remaining, despite EVs ahead!


So EV [Electric Cars] have got a Budget Bonanza with a slash of a Million bucks!

SL too is simply following UK, France, China trends which are on verge of mainstream electric cars. Are we unwittingly propping up Gray Market which has a monopoly on importing EVs to SL currently? And please realize: EVs will be disposable ‘consumer goods’. You will never see Classic Car Club of Ceylon or even a Classic Car magazine devoted to electric cars! Electric cars don’t get old. They just get scrapped! Their relatively short battery life demands it. EV battery replacement is rarely economically justified. So No EVs for me!

NOTE: SL needs to install Solar Powered Charging Points in each town, island-wide before EVs go mainstream!


Veli-Park’ Nawala Rd, Nugegoda haven for those who love to shed extra kilos!

Yet parking is an issue as some who do not use the Veli-Park like shop owners in vicinity also park their vehicles throughout day and the other menace – M/Bikes & Tuk-Tuks use up ‘Car Slots’, avoiding the area dedicated for them! Suggestion: Please create employment for Parking Wardens and charge say Rs 100/- for 2 hours for cars & Rs 50/- for M/Bikes and ban Tuk-Tuks from parking inside – that would effectively dissuade non-walkers from parking at Veli-Park, encouraging more bona-fide health conscious exercise guys & gals!