The employees of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CEYPETCO) today charged that there was a covert move by the Indian Oil Company (IOC) to fraudulently dump a substandard stock of 30, 000 metric tons of petrol in the domestic market, which was rejected as substandard.
While admitting that there was a 20% shortage of petrol supply in the domestic market due to a rejection of a stock of 30, 000 metric tons of petrol the said however, the CEYPETCO said it would manage to supply the full demand of petrol.
Minister Ranatunga made an appeal to motorists to use petrol sparingly until new stocks arrived and not to panic over the shortage.
The rejection of 30, 000 MTs of petrol due to quality failure at the laboratory tests has caused panic among motorists and long queues of motor vehicles were seen at filling stations islandwide in the last couple of days.
The General Secretary of the Ceylon Petroleum Common Workers’ Union (CPCWU) D. G. Rajakaruna said CEYPETCO prohibited the pumping of a shipment of 30, 000 metric tons of oil imported by the IOC on October 15 after it was found that the shipment was not up to the quality.
“The IOC gave an undertaking to CEYPETCO that the rejected shipment would be replaced with a fresh stock of petrol by October 30, which it failed to comply with. The IOC on October 27 simply said it could not replace the rejected stock with a new stock that led to the shortage,” Mr. Rajakaruna said.
Mr. Rajakaruna told the Daily Mirror that the next shipment of petrol was due at Colombo Port by Wednesday (8) and it would reach filling stations by late Thursday.
“We have valid reasons to believe that there is something fishy in this whole affair. The rejected shipment is still berthed at the Trincomalee harbour. We don’t know for what purpose.
“We have also information that the IOC management has met top officials of the Petroleum Resources Development Ministry, probably to woo them to agree to reaccept the rejected shipment. We also have no answer as to why the IOC suddenly said it could not replace the rejected petroleum shipment on time as promised with a fresh stock that created the shortage of petroleum in the market,” Mr. Rajakaruna added.
He said the crisis clearly manifests the necessity of CEYPETCO maintaining a buffer stock sufficient for at least one month of petroleum products as opposed to current two weeks of buffer stock.
“To have a sufficient buffer stock, the CYEPETCO needs a minimum of 15 tanks from Trincomalee tank farm. But the Government has failed to obtain at least ten tanks even after the Cabinet approval was granted to transfer ownership of 15 tanks to CEYPETCO.
“We are highly worried on the ability of the IOC that has only 20% of market share to cripple the domestic petrol market in this manner,” Mr. Rajakaruna lamented.
He also said the Government must immediately find an investor to upgrade and modernise the Sapugaskanda oil refinery, which is at its last stage of operation and produces only the half of the full capacity.
Mr. Rajakaruna in a letter to Petroleum Resources Development Minister Arjuna Ranatunga requested to conduct an inquiry on the suspicious behaviour of the IOC and its refusal to replace the rejected shipment of petrol on time and take punitive action if found the IOC had acted in a sabotaging manner.