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Jet fuel crisis looms at JKIA as stocks run out

A jet fuel crisis is looming at the Moi and Jomo Kenyatta International
A jet fuel crisis is looming at the Moi and Jomo Kenyatta International(JKIA) airports, with stocks of the commodity expected to run out Thursday. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

A jet fuel crisis is looming at the Moi and Jomo Kenyatta International(JKIA) airports, with stocks of the commodity expected to run out Thursday.

Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC), the State agency charged with transportation and storage of jet fuel imported by oil marketers, has warned that new supplies are not expected until Sunday, March 10.

Operations at most airports were yesterday paralysed by a strike called by the Kenya Aviation Workers Union (Kawu), which could become a blessing in disguise as fewer flights from JKIA could save on the available fuel.

A series of correspondence exchanged between State agencies that control affairs at JKIA has revealed behind-the-scenes efforts that were made to avert the imminent shortage, including a suggested 30 percent rationing for all carriers fuelling at the country’s two biggest airports.

In a letter addressed to the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) on Monday, KPC warned that only 10 million litres of fuel were in stock, which could only last for four days. Airlines operating from JKIA have a daily consumption of 2.5 million litres.

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The shortage is blamed on lower orders by oil marketing firms that cannot meet demand by the tens of aircraft that fly out of JKIA and Moi airports on a daily basis.

“Due to low Jet A-1 fuel stocks at JKIA, with immediate effect all non- scheduled operators are advised to tanker fuel from other locations and reduce fuel uptake from JKIA and Moi International Airport,” says acting KPC managing director Hudson Andambi in the letter to KCAA dated March 4.

“Demand held constant, we have some four days stocks with expected runout on March 7,” he added.

The shortage, according to KPC, was caused by reduced orders of jet fuel by oil marketing companies, compared to planned imports. In January for instance, the sector was alarmed when marketers placed an order for 37,000 tonnes despite a request for 60,000 tonnes.

KPC held a meeting with stakeholders on February 28 to put in place measures that would ration the daily demand at the airport by up to 30 percent, but the suppressed demand target to bridge the projected gap was not achieved.

The shortage has seen airlines at the facility allocated quotas to avoid a crisis at the airport with all non-scheduled airlines stopped from making a technical stopover at JKIA for refuelling. A number of airlines destined to other regions normally make short layovers at the airport to fuel.

KCAA director-general Gilbert Kibe could not be reached for comment on the matter yesterday as his phone was switched off.

“Scheduled operators will get their allocations as per current available volume for their refueling plans from their suppliers. There will be no refuelling for non- scheduled operators through technical stops within this period,” the regulator had said in a notice sent out on Monday.

KPC says a vessel loaded with fuel is currently in Mombasa, but the commodity will take days to get to its Nairobi depot. The State agency has no control over the quantity of imports, but takes orders from oil marketers.

“The earliest that Jet A-1 from the vessel can be availed for loading at Embakasi is on March 10 afternoon considering the logistics of having to displace AGO (diesel) currently in line 1,” said KPC in a meeting with stakeholders.

Kenya Airways received the lion’s share of one million litres in the allocation with cargo operator Astral Aviation getting about 260,000 litres.

Astral Aviation commercial manager Mustwafa Murad said the carrier is considering diverting its aircraft to Kilimanjaro International Airport in Tanzania for additional fuelling.

Astral operates cargo flights in the region and Europe.

Petroleum Principal Secretary Andrew Kamau, however, said the fuel will get to Nairobi by Friday this week. “There is a ship discharging at the moment and we expect the oil to get to Nairobi on Friday,” said Mr Kamau in an interview, brushing aside the warning by KPC.

A similar scenario was witnessed in the country in 2014 where the government sought assistance for an emergency delivery of jet fuel from Tanzania.

However, KPC says this might not be possible in the current situation as the option has already been explored and that the only potential vessel to have saved the situation was already discharging its cargo.

Oil marketers have already contacted their customers, appraising them of the low stocks of jet and requesting them to fuel at alternate airports in a bid to prolong the current limited stocks.

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