SHARJAH // Owners of petrol stations have begun to pull them down in Sharjah and the Northern Emirates as 16 months of fuel-supply problems take their toll.
The emirate slipped into a petrol crisis in May last year when the Enoc group stopped resupplying its Eppco and Enoc stations after a long debate on fuel subsidies.
The stations were shut by order of the Sharjah Government after Enoc failed to restart supplies, despite an ultimatum in June last year.
Now some Eppco stations are being dismantled. Crews are removing pumps at a station on Al Wahda Road, near the Ministry of Labour.
"We're taking all of them as spare parts to a warehouse in an industrial area," one worker said. "A company in the industrial area has already bought all the spares."
The underground fuel-storage tank has also been removed.
A spokesman for Enoc said the stations were being taken down as the contracts with owners expired. About 15 have so far expired in Sharjah.
"The owners have a choice of either continuing to receive rental fees from Enoc Group or reinvest their property or land into another business," the spokesman said.
The Al Wahda Road business is the second Eppco station to close in the emirate this year.
Another, on Sheikh Mohammed Al Qasimi Road in the Butina neighbourhood, has been dismantled and the land turned into a car park for lorries and buses.
"We just woke up to see the station being pulled down and other people taking over the plot for their business," said Ahmed Ali, a resident of Butina.
"This whole Enoc crisis was handled with a lot of secrecy and this is wrong."
The supply problems in Sharjah and the Northern Emirates are the result of a debate on fuel subsidies stretching over years.
Enoc and Eppco have been forced to sell petrol at a loss because the federally regulated retail price is lower than the wholesale price at which they buy it on global markets.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, intervened in last year's crisis and ordered Adnoc to take action.
The Abu Dhabi company increased its supply of fuel north and began building more of its own stations.
In emirates such as Ajman and Ras Al Khaimah, the Enoc group still operates some businesses but does not supply fuel.
In July last year there were suggestions that Adnoc would take over the Eppco and Enoc stations in the Northern Emirates, but officials from the Enoc Group denied this and the stations have remained closed.
A Butina resident who gave his name as Tayyib said he could not understand why the Enoc Group could not reach an understanding with Adnoc to keep the stations open.
"There is still a shortage of fuel in this emirate and long queues can still be found on most stations now, a year on," Tayyib said.
"If Adnoc have enough fuel to sell why don't they just reach an agreement to take on all of Enoc's stations?"