Friday, November 6, 2009

Truck Companies Worldwide Can Suffer The Same Fuel Shortage Problems

Reliance on Diesel has Always made Drayage and Specialist Haulage Vulnerable
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – Most of us have known what it’s like to live through a time when carbon based fuels of one sort or another have been in short supply or shot up in price. An OPEC crisis, refineries or tanker drivers on strike, war in the Middle East. As long as it happens intermittently it simply serves as a reminder as to how much we depend on carbon based fuels.

Handy Shipping Guide runs many stories on the advance of electric trucks, hybrid conversions, fuel cells etc. but even when such vehicles become commonplace many operators in the further flung corners of the globe will rely on the traditional internal combustion technology and these are the places where a fuel shortage can mean life and death to a business and the weather can decide the fate of a company.

A brief look round the world this week reveals the following. In the State of Victoria, Australia they expect diesel supplies to be exhausted by Monday in some parts of the province. The blame lies apparently with the weather, unseasonable rain storms to be precise, plus the hot weather up to now has led to an early harvest, agriculture forming the bulk of freight haulage in the region at this time of year. One haulier there said he expects to have to cease operations until supplies arrive, that this was a perennial problem and the situation was always critical in the far flung region he operates in when the nearest refineries closed during holiday periods.

Zambia is in the grip of the second major fuel crisis in a month despite government assurances the situation would be regularised. This has led to a dip in industrial production and haulage companies leaving trucks idle. Many blame the authorities for not recapitalising Zambia’s Indeni refinery and there is a healthy black market in fuel at exorbitant prices. Latest news is that many gas stations have run out of fuel completely. Further North in Ghana persistent fuel shortages have caused calls for the President to consider his position and comments that the intermittent drought of oil based products must end. One commentator even suggesting the premier should be awarded “the order of the dead vulture”. Latest news is that crude supplies to supply the local refinery in Tema have now been located and should relieve the situation. The populace look on sceptically.

In the Philippines the cause of disruption is somewhat more poetic. On 31st October Typhoon Santi swept along the waterways, destroying part of the “Bridge of Promise” in Batangas, killing two unfortunate people and temporarily cutting fuel supplies to the Manila Metro from the nearby oil refineries. An alternative route is now being used but delays will remain for an estimated three months. The government have imposed maximum prices whilst the crisis in the whole Luzon province persists and accused the oil companies of profiteering by threatening further shortages in the stricken area.

Almost a relief then to find shortages in Sri Lanka and Alberta, Canada are merely the result of industrial action and maintenance at refineries taking longer than scheduled. The list goes on and on. Let us hope that the drive toward cleaner and more efficient, and dare we say, cheaper forms of propulsion keeps gathering pace before the problems of the few begin to affect the many.

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