Why it all hap­pened

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS -

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.

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