No crisis like situation though comparatively fewer vehicles on roads
Amid a nationwide strike by petroleum dealers, oil companies were expected to ensure that their company-owned company-operated (COCO) pumps remain operational. However, fewer than expected pumps were seen open on Thursday morning and companies were charting out their plans.
While the state-run Pakistan State Oil (PSO) and the largest private oil company Shell Pakistan opened their COCO pumps, other companies including Hascol, Total Parco, and Go were less responsive to the situation.
The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) on Wednesday instructed oil companies to ensure supply after the Pakistan Petroleum Dealers Association (PPDA) announced that it would go ahead with its strike call.
On Karachi’s Sharae Faisal, the main artery in the city, only one petrol pump operated by Hascol was reported serving motorists on Thursday morning. The rest of the pumps remained closed.
When contacted, a Hascol official told SAMAA Digital said that the company had not yet prepared a list of COCO pumps that were to stay open during the strike. “A meeting is under way and it will take almost two hours to finalize the list,” the official said at around 930am.
The official said one COCO pump on Shahrae Faisal and one at Port Qasim were operating.
The official requested not to be named saying he was not authorized to speak to the media.
An official at GO said the company has no COCO pump in Karachi and retail pumps remained closed.
“In Karachi zone all pumps are closed due to excessive amount of customers and fights among them,” the official said adding that “COCO sites are open in the Punjab region.”
To a question, he said some petrol pumps in other cities were closed due to some issues.
Similarly, most of the Total Parco pumps were closed in Karachi.
In Lahore, the Deputy Commissioner issued a list of 62 petrol pumps he said were open to customers. “These include Total, Attock, Shell, PSO, Zoom, HASCOL, My Petroleum, Go Petroleum, Euro pumps,” the deputy commissioner said.
List of 62 Petrol Pumps in Lahore where petroleum products are available.— Deputy Commissioner Lahore (@DCLahore) November 25, 2021
These include Total, Attock, Shell, PSO, Zoom, HASCOL, My Petroleum, Go Petroleum, Euro Pumps. pic.twitter.com/4BJP9GaxCp
SAMAA TV reported that out of 344 pumps in Lahore, only 42 opened on Thursday.
Faisalabad, however, stood out as about 90% petrol pumps were operating in the city, according to the TV.
PSO and Shell Pakistan had issued lists of their COCO pumps on Wednesday night. The combined list could be seen here.
The COCO pumps that opened on Thursday morning did not witness long lines that were seen the previous night, indicating that a majority of people got their car and motorcycle tanks filled up before they went home.
This was in sharp contrast to the situation observed Wednesday night when motorists formed long queues next to pumps causing traffic delays.
However, the limited number of COCO pumps is unlikely to meet the demand as social media users share pictures of major PSO and Shell retail pumps that remain close.
Fears of shortage led many commuters to not use their vehicles on Thursday morning. Comparatively fewer vehicles were seen on the roads.
By the evening, long ques at the filling stations started forming agains as people returning from offices looked to get their vehicles tanks refilled.
The PPDA has activated its network throughout the country to enforce the strike. Petroleum pump owners in smaller cities like Attock vowed to close pumps from Thursday.
Muhammad Shoaib Sarwar, a petrol retailer who owns two pumps in Punjab told SAMAA Digital on Wednesday that 5% of pumps may remain open as they are earning enough profit to make a margin. “However, we are negotiating with those retailers and trying to take them into confidence,” he added.
Sarwar said that some petrol retailers wereafraid of crowd control as they don’t have enough staff to deal with anxious customers.
Pakistan Petroleum Dealers Association’s Information Secretary Khawaja Atif Ahmad said that as the government hasn’t increased their margin yet, they would call a country-wide strike from Thursday and it would continue for an unspecified period.
Only ambulances will be able to get petrol from Thursday, Ahmad said.
The dealers had threatened to go on strike throughout the country with effect from November 5 against the government’s delay in increasing their margins.
On November 3, the dealers’ association withdrew its strike call after a government team led by Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar agreed to increase their margins by 6% on the sale of petroleum products in a few days.
The Ministry of Energy (Petroleum Division) announced Wednesday night that all petrol pumps will remain open across the country on November 25.
Petroleum Division’s spokesperson said the case to increase the margin for petrol pump owners has been sent to the Economic Coordination Committee.
“People don’t need to worry, the ministry is making efforts for the negotiations,” the spokesperson said.