SHARJAH // They look like the answer to fuel-starved motorists' dreams, but two new petrol stations in Sharjah remain closed, despite ongoing problems supplying petrol to the Northern Emirates.
Work on the Adnoc service stations was recently completed, but the pumps remain wrapped in protective plastic sheets while the car wash, convenience store and oil change stations are fenced off from drivers who have been struggling with fuel shortages for almost a year.
Ansar Juma Mohammed, 32, an Iraqi motorist from Sharjah wondered why the station was yet to open. "To me they look like gifts - precious gifts from Abu Dhabi for being patient and lining up in queues before," he said.
Sharjah slipped into a fuel crisis last year after the Enoc group, one of the biggest suppliers of petrol to the emirate, stopped refuelling its Eppco and Enoc stations.
The Sharjah Executive Council responded by issuing an ultimatum to the company to resume supplies or close down its business in the emirate.
Each day since the closures, large queues have formed at the remaining Adnoc and Emarat stations. Most drivers are forced to refuel in neighbouring emirates like Dubai.
After the Enoc group stations stopped supplying petrol in April last year, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, directed Adnoc to step in.
The company responded by opening four service stations in August, two along Emirates Road - in Sharjah and Ajman - one in Umm Al Quwain and another in Ras Al Khaimah.
Residents hoped the two new petrol stations - one in the Al Qassimiya area next to the Sharjah Consultative Council and the other on the Sharjah-Kalba road - were a sign that their problems were finally over. That has not proved to be the case.
However, motorists in the emirate have taken heart from the fact that although the two stations are not a quick fix to the ongoing fuel problem, authorities appear to be addressing the issue.
"More than 80 Enoc group stations used to operate in Sharjah and just two will not fix the problem immediately, but at least something is happening," said 30-year-old Emirati, Mohammed Al Mullaht.
Bassma Essa, a spokeswoman for Enoc Group, said discussions were ongoing between the government and the fuel company to resume petrol supplies.
However, similar promises have been made by Enoc group's executives in the past.
In September, an Enoc executive said the company had sustained billions of dirhams in losses because of the federally mandated cap on fuel prices.
"We are not pumping fuel today," said Zaid Alqufaidi, Enoc's managing director of marketing. "But once the decision is taken on the pricing, I think it will [start].
However, three stations - two in Ajman on a busy stretch of Emirates Road that runs to Ras Al Khaimah and another in Fujairah - continue to operate. A spokeswoman for Enoc was unable to explain why these stations remained open.