Why it all happened
When the Lanka IOC’s shipment was rejected on October 17, there were 45,000 metric tonnes of petrol in the tanks at Muthurajawela and Kolonnawa, Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) sources disclosed.
Officials were confident that they could manage the situation as a replacement vessel from LIOC was expected by October 31. The tanker ‘Neveska Lady’ with 40,000MT of petrol procured by CPC was due from the United Arab Emirates on November 2.
By October 27, however, it became evident that LIOC’s French supplier M/s Total was not sending a replacement while it was communi- cated that the CPC tanker would be delayed until November 8 or 9. The Sapugaskanda oil refinery was also shut down for three days on October 31 owing to a technical fault. It was a triple whammy.
By November 2, there were just 20,000 metric tonnes of petrol in storage. The daily requirement was between 2,500 and 2,600MT. If Neveska Lady was delayed till November 9, stocks would run out one and a half days before the vessel reached Colombo.
It was decided the same day to manage existing stocks carefully. All sheds were issued petrol sufficient for just one day. A limit was set: the maximum quantity of petrol released for daily consumption would be 3,000MT. Sheds with storage capacity of several days were also issued only daily stocks. The rationing took place in Colombo and outstation.
Panic buying started on November 3 due to SMS and social media rumours. Consequently, daily requirement skyrocketed to around 5,000MT. But the CPC strictly adhered to a daily limit of 3,000MT. Stocks would have run out within three to four days had more been issued.
The Petroleum Industry Ministry says 2,623 metric tonnes were issued on November 6 while the maximum limit of 3,000 metric tonnes was released on November 7 and 8.