x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Sharjah petrol stations closed

Every Enoc and Eppco petrol station in Sharjah was closed yesterday as the emirate's executive council carried out its threat to shut them down unless they began selling fuel once again.

The scene at an Eppco petrol station in Sharjah's University Area. When the midday deadline passed without any sign of petrol being sold, authorities ordered that entrances of all Enoc and Eppco stations be blocked.
The scene at an Eppco petrol station in Sharjah's University Area. When the midday deadline passed without any sign of petrol being sold, authorities ordered that entrances of all Enoc and Eppco stations be blocked.

SHARJAH //Every Enoc and Eppco petrol station in Sharjah was closed today as the emirate's executive council carried out its threat to shut them down unless they began selling fuel once again.

When the midday deadline passed without any sign of petrol being sold, authorities ordered that entrances of all the stations be blocked.

The Enoc Group, which runs the stations, was also told to shut its shops, block car service bays and remove items for sale including car lubricants.

Sharjah Executive Council issued a 72-hour ultimatum to Enoc Group on Tuesday to resume selling petrol after a month without supply or shut down its operations in the emirate. The deadline was set at a meeting led by Sheikh Abdullah bin Salim Al Qassimi, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah.

At more than 30 stations in areas including Al Nahda, Al Khan, Kalba and Khorfakhan, Enoc Group staff put up barriers blocking cars from entering forecourts. Until then, they had allowed morotists to access shops and use other services.

"We have strict orders from our bosses not to let any cars enter here because Sharjah government inspectors are moving around," said a staff member at an Enoc station on Al Arouba street turning away vehicles.

He added: "We received a notice from Sharjah Economic Development Department saying we will be fined Dh5,000 if we sold anything from midday."

Motorists searching for fuel said they were surprised that Sharjah authorities had acted out their threat.

"So it has come to this," said Mohammed Abdul Wahab, a resident who was turned away at the Enoc station on Al Arouba street. "I still can't believe they are being closed like this. I thought there would be some agreement sometime soon."

Mr Abdul Wahab wanted to change his car oil at the station, the place he has done so for the past five years.

"They could have problems with authorities or a shortage of petrol, but their car full service is the best anywhere here," he said.

Shadia Ahmed, a motorist from Yemen, added: "I cannot believe they have done this suffering to us for a full month. The government should sue them for damages."

In Ajman, Eppco and Enoc stations continued to provide services including maintenance and the sale of lubricants, and were operating stations stores. However, petrol pumps were still empty.

Eppco and Enoc stations in the Northern Emirates began running out of fuel about a month ago, creating long queues at stations run by other companies, such as Adnoc.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, this week ordered Adnoc to take action. The company has increased its supply by up to 40 per cent in its 59 stations in Sharjah and the other four Northern Emirates.

More than two weeks ago the Executive Council gave the petrol company 48 hours to explain why its facilities in Sharjah were dry. There was no public response from either side, but the council acknowledged this week it had spoken to Enoc Group about the first ultimatum, without providing details of the discussions.

Samuel Ciszuk, a London-based senior Middle East energy analyst at HIS Global Insight, said the developments could pave the way for Abu Dhabi's Adnoc to take over Enoc's petrol stations in the Northern Emirates.

"In one way or another Abu Dhabi will increase supplies," he said. "Adnoc doesn't run many service stations in the Northern Emirates but it seems from their comments in the past few days that they're expecting to grow their chain of service stations there rapidly.

"That might mean they take over a lot of, if not all, the Enoc stations outside of Dubai. This would not surprise me, though it's still very speculative.

"One could realise why there's a lot of frustration in the Northern Emirates and particularly in the Sharjah Executive Council, which seems to be a bit more vocal than the others," he said.

Neither authorities from Sharjah Economic Development Department, the Sharjah Executive Council, nor Enoc Group, were available for comment yesterday.

ykakande@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by Colin Simpson