Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bid to curb diesel sales

Bid to curb diesel sales
Matt Chung for THE NATIONAL July 07. 2008

ABU DHABI // Adnoc has been asked to restrict sales of diesel at its petrol stations on the island to reduce traffic congestion and accidents caused by vehicles queuing on main roads to take advantage of cheap prices.

The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company sells diesel for Dh8.60 (US$2.34) per gallon, less than half the cost of fuel at the Emirates National Oil Company (Enoc), Emarat and Emirates Petroleum Products Company (Eppco) stations in Dubai and the northern Emirates, where it costs Dh19.25 (US$5.24) per gallon.

The price of diesel in the northern Emirates is said to have increased by 58 per cent this year.

An increase in the number of vehicles using diesel has contributed to congestion and clogged right-hand lanes of roads near the petrol stations are causing more accidents, according to a report by the Abu Dhabi Traffic and Patrols department, seen by The National.

Lorry drivers say they can wait up to an hour to fill their tanks. At busy times, some stations are imposing limits on diesel sales, such as Dh50 or Dh100 per vehicle.

However, as some drivers merely leave the pump and rejoin the queue, this may have made congestion only worse.

“They gave a limit, but some people, they come back around,” said Imtiaz Khan, 32, a lorry driver who works for a construction company in Abu Dhabi.

The report recommended diesel should not be sold to lorries and buses on the island between 7am and 9am, 1pm and 3pm and 6pm and 9pm.

The department’s report says long-term solutions could include selling diesel only at stations outside the city, creating station entrances and exits away from main roads where possible and opening new stations only in areas where road safety can be guaranteed.

Some stations have already stopped selling diesel, which yesterday afternoon was not available at the Adnoc outlets on Airport Road between 11th and 13th streets.

Major Hussein al Harthi, the head of the traffic engineering and road safety section for Traffic and Patrols, said Adnoc had been asked to co-ordinate with traffic police when choosing new sites for stations and to modify entrances. Officers were being sent to petrol stations to manage vehicles entering and exiting stations and to break up lengthy queues. The most congested stations were at the intersection of Fourth and Al Saada streets, Airport Road near Zayed Sports City and Between Two Bridges, said the report.

Adnoc, which also has 49 petrol stations in the emirates of Sharjah, Ajman, Ras al Khaimah, Umm ul Quwain and Fujairah, has kept its diesel prices at Dh8.6, despite the sharp increase at other UAE petrol stations. Petrol prices, fixed at Dh6.25 per gallon for an octane rating of 95, have been steady since 2005.

The Ministry of Interior’s traffic department and Adnoc officials met in May to discuss limiting the sale of diesel to certain hours for lorries heavier than 2.5 tonnes and building diesel stations on main roads outside cities. Ghaith al Za’abi, the director of the ministry’s traffic department, said the department had also suggested Adnoc increase its number of diesel pumps.

The rise in the price of diesel has contributed to inflation by pushing up the cost of transporting food and daily commodities and the proposals would make it even more difficult for transport companies to obtain cheap diesel.

Adnoc stations in the northern Emirates stopped sales of diesel to lorries with Dubai licence plates last month and police have been handing out fines to vehicles queuing in Sharjah. Saudi Arabia has introduced fines of 5,000 riyals (Dh4,03) to stop its residents attaching second fuel tanks to their lorries.

Some drivers are selling their vehicles, fed up with the long queues and the rising prices. “It’s not economical any more,” said Hamdi Shehabeh, who recently sold his diesel Isuzu lorry. He said he remembered a time when it cost only Dh4.5 a gallon to fill his tank.

“Imagine what is happening with contractors who don’t have a choice and have to use diesel,” he said.

* With additional reporting by Hashim al Mohammed

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