Kathmandu, February 20, 2017:Â A strike by tanker operators disrupted fuel supplies and caused queues of panic buyers to form outside gasoline stations run by the Nepal Army, Nepal Police and Sajha.
On Friday, oil tanker operators submitted a 15-point demand and refused to load fuel from Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) depots in India. According to Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC), they have threatened to completely halt shipments from February 27 if authorities did not fulfill their demands by that date.
The shortage was also caused by NOCâ€™s failure to distribute fuel on Saturday. The state-owned oil monopoly claimed that there was no shortage despite the protest movement launched by tanker operators. â€œThe commotion on Sunday was caused by a halt in deliveries on Friday,â€ said NOC Spokesperson Bhanubhakta Khanal.
Tanker operators have been staging a protest demanding that the rule requiring them to maintain a minimum fleet size of five tankers be removed. The stipulation had recently been inserted in the Petroleum Products Transportation Bylaw.
They have also been asking NOC to revise the range of claimable loss. As per the new bylaw, tanker operators will face action if the quantity of their oil cargo differs by more than 0.25 percent upon arrival at NOC depots after being transported from IOC depots.
If the discrepancy exceeds the limit, they will be fined an amount double the prevailing per unit price of fuel, states the bylaw.
Likewise, tanker operators have asked NOC to set the temperature shrinkage coefficient as per the international standard. Currently, NOC has set the coefficient at 1.06 for petrol and at 0.75 for diesel and kerosene. The temperature coefficient is the amount of shrinkage per 1,000 litres of oil for each 1 Celsius degree drop in temperature.
NOC said that the shortage would ease from Monday. Khanal said they had doubled fuel deliveries. â€œThe corporation has been issuing 800 kilolitres of petrol against the normal demand of 400 kilolitres daily,â€ he said.
Khanal said they would be holding talks with the disgruntled tanker operators on Monday. â€œWe have called them for a meeting to resolve the problem as soon as possible,â€ he said.
However, petrol pump operators and motorists were skeptical about NOCâ€™s claim. â€œNOC has slashed deliveries to half of usual levels over the past week,â€ said Pashupati Karki, an attendant at SP International Inc, Pulchok.
Suresh Shakya, a motorist who was waiting in line outside SP International, said he was there because he expected the shortage to last longer. â€œMotorists like me have to stand in fuel lines until tanker operators call off their strike,â€ Shakya said.
Ramji Maharjan, a resident of Chapagaun, Lalitpur, said he had been standing in line for almost an hour. According to Maharjan, he planned to stock up on gasoline in case the shortage persisted.