A sudden shortage of diesel brought Monrovia to a standstill yesterday as businesses and other organizations frantically combed the city and its environs in search of the petroleum product in order to keep their businesses operating for the rest of the week. Since Sunday February 9, diesel became increasingly scarce in Liberia due to an indefinite shut down of SIR, the national oil refinery of neighboring Cote d’Ivoire.
SIR is the source of 90% of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company’s (LPRC) petroleum supply.
Due to the unexpected breakdown, a supply had to be sourced from offshore Cameroon and Europe and that shipment should have arrived on February 10, a press release from LPRC said. However that shipment, which should supply the Liberian market with 16,000 metric tons (MT) or 4 million gallons of diesel, is delayed until February 15, the notice said, adding that until then, the dwindling diesel supply would have to be managed.
Key institutions and filling stations will be supplied at 80 percent while other facilities will be supplied at only 55 percent, LPRC says. Although it advised the public not to panic, try telling that to every imaginable line of business, other institutions and homeowners who all rely on diesel to run the generators that produce power in the absence of grid electricity.
It is safe to say that generators of various capacities power a majority of businesses, other entities and residential buildings thought Liberia. Generators can be heard humming loudly near tailor shops, restaurants, government buildings, banks, many of which went dim, lost productivity and revenue as a result of the diesel shortage. Transport buses that run on diesel were seen parked at gas stations, hoping and waiting for diesel to be dispensed. This costly petroleum product has eaten into the profits of businesses resulting in price increases.
There is no problem as far as gasoline is concerned and supplies are available for normal distribution, LPRC says.
The questions on everyone's mind are, when did the SRI breakdown occur? And when were alternative supplies ordered? How come every gas station in Monrovia and its environs suddenly ran out of diesel at the same time? It can only be surmised that while the rest of the public was caught off guard about any impending diesel shortage, those in the petroleum business knew what was afoot and decided to shut off their diesel pumps for reasons best known to themselves.
If the expected petroleum supplies do not arrive by this weekend as LPRC promises, this latest diesel shortage could lead to a crisis that threatens to bring the Liberian economy to a screeching halt. This situation may put pressure on LEC to step up its snail-paced electrification of Monrovia and its environs.