ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s fuel crisis is affecting daily office transport, as service providers are finding it increasingly difficult to keep their buses and vans running, even as private bus owners warn of an imminent collapse of public transport in the country.

A spokesperson for Deepna Transport, a Colombo-based office transport service, told EconomyNext that finding fuel has been a challenge.

‘’I have been in search of fuel all over. I went to around 30 stations to find diesel. I haven’t cancelled anything, nor taken up any work,’’ he said.

Minister of Power Udaya Gamanpila in a parliament session on Wednesday (23) said: “The problem we are facing is not a power or fuel problem. It is the non-availability of dollars.”

He also stated that Sri Lanka would receive 37,500 metric tonnes of diesel worth $35.3 million.

‘’Petrol sheds are rationing what can be given. We need diesel of at least 10,000 rupees to run the daily so when its rationed like this we are wasting time, and the diesel we already have,’’ several transport providers told EconomyNext.

Some fuel stations denied reports that they’re hiding their stocks. “We simply don’t have diesel to provide,’’ one spokesperson said.

However, a fuel station in Talawakele, Kandy, said that due to the shortage, rationing was necessary to make sure that there was enough fuel to go around.

“There are a lot of private buses in this area,” a source told EconomyNext.

“We give each bus around 2,000 to 3,000 rupees worth of petrol, so that they can run the vehicles without stopping. We have to do this because the fuel has to be distributed among everyone as equally as possible since there are very few petrol sheds in the area. ”

“The crisis has scared a few customers and they would pump petrol even if the tanks were full,” he said.

Among the scared consumers are Sri Lanka’s private bus owners.

President of the Lanka Private Bus Owners’ Association Gemunu Wijeratne told reporters on Saturday (26) that the 2,000-rupee cap on the diesel sold to private buses.

“This is not practical, because a bus needs about 6,000 to 7,000 rupees worth of diesel a day to operate short distances.  For long distance it’s about 10,000 rupees. This is severely impacting us,” he said.

Warning that by Monday (28) buses may not be able to find diesel at all, Wijeratne said his association plans to inform the Transport Ministry that private bus owners will be compelled to limit their operations whether it’s short distance or long.

“If this continues, public transport will collapse and the economy will come to a standstill,” he said.


Address fuel shortage to prevent collapse of public transport: Sri Lanka private bus owners

Transporters were expecting shortcomings in fuel and many have taken up tactics to cope with business. Drivers stated that they would go to many different petrol sheds to get a full tank.

‘’I’ve lost diesel by attempting to find diesel! I went to five cities in search of diesel, only to come home to nothing. I have a couple of buses in the network and a few were not able to run today,’’ mentioned Lakshitha, a private transport provider.

He went on to state that several of his passengers had to resort to working from home, and that many had to use public transport to report to work.

‘’There are were more vehicles in petrol sheds rather than on the road,’’ he added.

On Saturday morning, Sri Lanka’s Indian Oil Corporation unit S raised the price of petrol by 20 rupees a litre to 204 rupees and that of diesel by 15 rupees to139 rupees, amid a rise in global prices.

Sri Lanka taxes petrol at higher rate and diesel at a lower rate, despite diesel being more expensive to import. LIOC previously raised petrol to 184rupees  to a litre when state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) held prices at 177 rupees.

The state-run CPC cannot buy enough dollars in the market at the current 200 to the US dollar rate due to foreign exchange shortages. The shortages come from rupees injected into the banking system to maintain low interest rates which it has pushed up credit and demand for all imports.

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila has sought a price increase but the cabinet of ministers last week decided not to raise prices.

The CPC says it is losing 551 million rupees a day due to rising fuel prices in February. Unless prices are increased it cannot find the rupees to buy dollars. In the past, losses were covered by tax cuts and loans from state banks. (Colombo/Feb25/2022)