SHARJAH // As yesterday's deadline for answers to the fuel shortage inched closer without a result in sight, members of Sharjah's government bodies expressed frustration that the emirate was suffering for no good reason.
Dr Abdullah Abdul Aziz al Najjar, a member of the Sharjah Consultative Council, said the people of the Northern Emirates were angry at the way Enoc Group, which owns the Enoc and Eppco petrol stations, had treated them.
"Why Sharjah and the Northern Emirates?" he said. "This is a very unequal treatment that we don't want in our country."
Enoc and Eppco have said the shortages, which began about two weeks ago, were caused by technical upgrades that shut down stations.
Yet none of the Enoc and Eppco stations in Sharjah have any sign of technical upgrades in progress, and most have been dry for days.
Dr al Najjar said the explanation given by Enoc Group was "ridiculous". "This is taking us back to old ages and ridicules this country in the age of technology to do upgrades for months," he said.
Based in Dubai, Enoc Group has 167 stations, with locations in every emirate but Abu Dhabi.
With its northern stations shut, the resulting increase in demand at other companies' stations has led to long lines and dry tanks not only in Sharjah but in Dubai, Umm al Qaiwain, Ajman and Ras al Khaimah.
For its part, Adnoc Distribution increased its supply of fuel by 35 to 40 per cent in its 59 stations in Sharjah and the four northern emirates, Abdullah Salem al Dhaheri, general manager of Adnoc, told Al Ittihad newspaper.
Mr al Dhaheri said the measures were a response to fuel shortage and aimed to fill the gap caused by the temporary closing of other distribution companies' stations. Most of the petrol came from its supplies in Al Ain and via sea to Saqr Port in RAK.
He said the increased supplies would continue until the situation was resolved.
"It's a big problem. There are three companies now which are in this situation," said a spokesman for Emarat, referring to his employer, plus Eppco and Enoc. "We are dealing with it as best as we can. Of course we're happy about Adnoc's decision [to increase supplies to the Northern Emirates]. Anything that can make it easier to our clients would be helpful to us too."
Reuters reported that Emarat was seeking an additional 100,000 tonnes of gasoline to cover its needs from June to September. It already has contracts with BP and Vitol for about 80,000 tonnes a month.
Representatives for Eppco and Enoc could not be reached for comment yesterday, nor could members of Sharjah's Executive Council.
Adnoc manages 194 stations across the country, 135 of which in Abu Dhabi. The company is planning 234 additional modern stations nationwide by 2012.
The Sharjah Consultative Council (SCC) has not held any meetings yet specifically about the petrol shortage. Obaid Saif al Hajri, the speaker of the SCC, said he had not heard any news yesterday of the petrol companies explaining the fuel shortages.
The SCC member Khawla al Norman said the matter was in the hands of the Executive Council, which at its weekly meeting on Tuesday had given Enoc Group two days to explain the fuel shortage.
Mr al Norman further said he had lost faith in Eppco and Enoc.
"We want Adnoc and Emarat only to continue their services in this country," he said. "This game Enoc is playing is going to affect the reputation of our country, one of the biggest producers of oil. We are not importers - we are a big exporter of oil."
Dr Obaid Saif al Hajri, the speaker of the SCC, said that regardless of the cause, a solution must be found soon. "The problem cannot wait for months, it needs a resolution that will bind petrol retailers in future not to bring similar problems," he said.
Users of fuel-hungry heavy equipment, meanwhile, said they had managed to sidestep the shortages so far by buying for their fleets exclusively from Adnoc and Emarat.
"Maybe we shall be affected in the future if the crisis goes on unsolved," said Ahmed Ali of Innova International Equipment in Sharjah Industrial Area. "At present, the only problem we have is with our employees finding a station to refuel their cars or even our clients being bothered."
Hashim Murad of Hayek Heavy Machinery Trading also said his company used fuel suppliers other than Eppco and Enoc, keeping the effects on business minimal.
"As residents of this country we want the problem solved and everyone to live happy. But so far our business is not affected," Mr Murad said.
Last night Khalid Hadi, an Enod sopkesman, refused to comment on any developments. Phone calls to other spokesmen were not immediately returned.
* With additional reporting by Martin Croucher and agencies