Oil industry sources say tanker vessels of IOC and BPCL likely to reach city in next couple of days

What began as a diesel shortage, escalated into a full-fledged fuel crisis in the city, forcing owners of petrol vehicles to cancel their plans for Sunday only to go looking for the handful of retail outlets that still functioned.

Reiterating that a combination of factors were fuelling the crisis, a senior official of the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) said, one reason for the spurt in demand for petrol was the dealers' reluctance to place indent for petrol alone, as after the price hike it entails more investment.

Tamilnadu Petroleum Dealers Association president M. Kannan said that after the diesel shortage, oil companies were insisting on the trade lifting full load of petrol. Many of the dealers were not in a position to make such high investments, Moreover, for some the sales volumes are low. The tanker lorries, he added, come in two capacities – 12,000 and 20,000 litres.

As regards the week ahead, he said since most of the outlets ran out of diesel and petrol, they would be able to resume only after fresh loads arrive on Monday.

On Sunday, terminals of IOC and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) from where the dealers get the products did not function. Long queues of two-wheelers and cars were seen near outlets that were open.

Sources in the oil industry said this was to ensure that some products were available on Monday. Sources in Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) said the company's terminal functioned and some 20 loads were sent. A tanker vessel each of IOC and BPCL were likely to reach Chennai in the next couple of days and once those products are available there would be some respite. Until then, for motorists, it would mean setting aside more time to search for fuel.

Over four bunks on Arcot Road were closed as they did not have the products. “My regular bunk was closed from Sunday morning itself. Luckily there is another bunk near Vadapalani bus stand where I managed to fill my bike,” said R. Ramesh, a resident of Valasaravakkam.

The problem, according to Mr. Kannan, is no longer restricted to Chennai as around 900 outlets in the city, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram districts have been affected.

Various segments of user associations have decided to call for a meeting on Monday to discuss how to deal with the situation.

Trailer Owners Association president, T.S. Perumal said: “We have called for a meeting of our members on Monday. We have 715 members and all of them serve Chennai Port. If our trailers do not ply, that could impact operations at the port, affecting export and import trade. That could also lead to congestion charges for container vessels,” he said.

Metropolitan Transport Corporation, however, said that it continued to receive diesel supplies and was able to operate its fleet as usual. Likewise, there has been no impact on vegetable arrivals and their prices in Koyambedu market, sources among wholesale traders said.

M. Vasudevan, State Secretary, Confederation of Surface Transport Tamilnadu, described the diesel scarcity as artificial and intended to divert public attention from the recent petrol price hike.

“The scarcity is also being created as there are talks of diesel prices going up,” he complained. Indian Oil should have made arrangement for alternative supplies. “They don't seem to be concerned. The State government should intervene and ask the oil companies to restore normality,” he said, adding that the few outlets of private companies would only otherwise benefit.

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