x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

'I am fed up with this congestion'

Savings on diesel are substantial for lorries filling up in Musaffah, but delays and chaos are taking their toll.

A driver sits in his vehicle while waiting to fill-up with diesel at an Adnoc station in Musaffah.
A driver sits in his vehicle while waiting to fill-up with diesel at an Adnoc station in Musaffah.

MUSSAFFAH // Gul Ahmed sat under the chassis of his lorry yesterday, waiting in the heat in a line of heavy vehicles queuing for diesel in Musaffah. Mr Ahmed said he had been queuing since 5.30am in his lorry, which has a broken air conditioner. He was inching slowly towards the pumps when the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) station in Industrial City Abu Dhabi ran out of diesel at about 8am.

Vehicles sat empty at the pumps until about 1pm, when a fresh supply of the fuel arrived. "Too much problems," said Mr Ahmed, who transports heavy materials such as steel pipes. "This happens all the time," added Mohammed Ahsan, a Pakistani who drives a bulldozer. Mr Ahmed, Mr Ahsan and other lorry drivers have been flocking to Adnoc stations as its competitors, which buy at international market rates, have more than doubled their diesel prices.

Adnoc sells diesel for Dh8.60 (US$2.34) per gallon, while Emirates National Oil Company (Enoc), Emarat and Emirates Petroleum Products Company (Eppco) stations in Dubai and the northern Emirates charge Dh19.25 per gallon. Some drivers said they waited for more than 12 hours in Musaffah to fill their tanks with diesel. Long queues stretch onto main roads from the two stations in the area selling diesel to heavy vehicles.

The drivers say one station sells diesel only to pickups and buses, while another stopped selling the fuel about eight days ago. An employee at a petrol station, who did not want to be named, said the nearby Adnoc petrol point had stopped selling diesel to contain the congestion. Drivers said the move had lengthened an already long wait. "I am fed up with this congestion, I have been sick for the past 10 days from waiting in the heat," said Sher Ali Khan, a lorry driver for a waste transport company. "No sleep, no food, no drinks. Even if you change your mind about filling up with diesel, you cannot exit the queue because the trucks are all around."

Queues at one petrol station near a Kentucky Fried Chicken stretched back in two directions. Cars and lorries formed two lanes, narrowing down to one as they spilled out onto the motorway near an exit leading to Tariff and Al Ain. In the other direction, a queue of lorries approaching the station from a parallel service road waited with engines idling. "Between Abu Dhabi and Musaffah we used to be able to make between two or three trips a day, but now we are making one trip a day," said Tom Thomas, the manager of freight and logistics for ADSO, a transport company that has more than 8,200 lorries transporting goods in the Gulf region.

Mr Thomas, from India, said his company was no longer "in a position to commit to our clients and also the rates for transport are going up every day". His company was receiving diesel shipments from Adnoc, he added, but the estimated 5,000 gallons per shipment was not meeting the company's demand for fuel. However, Mr Thomas said queuing for hours was still more cost effective than paying the prices charged by other diesel fuel providers.

Jumaa Ahmad, an Emirati who transports cement, said until about two months ago, he waited just 10 minutes to fill his lorry. Last Wednesday, the same exercise took 12 hours. "This is an oil-rich country where they can open 10 more stations rather than close existing ones," he said. "They cannot sense our suffering." The long queues and the surging diesel prices have contributed to the development of a black market in Musaffah, drivers said.

However, even on the black market, it is difficult to find a bargain. Mr Khan said he had attempted to purchase diesel, but had been denied by the black market dealers. "They said, 'Dh100 won't buy you a gallon'," Mr Khan said. "I think they want to keep the diesel in stock." Hamad al Noor, who had been waiting in his lorry for more than seven hours, said some drivers were either attempting to pay off attendants to be given extra diesel or were going to other illegal sources, where they paid a higher price.

"Some people are paying extra money to get more diesel from attendants or from other sources," he said, "My bosses don't give me extra money, so I could not do the same." Adnoc said it was taking the necessary steps to prevent the practice and has been rationing diesel at the pumps. Only motorists with prepaid smart cards will be able to buy diesel at Adnoc stations. The cards are linked to the company's main headquarters through an electronic system that will define how much diesel is required for each consumer. For now, drivers at the station in Industrial City Abu Dhabi are still able to pay in cash, but a 50-gallon limit has been imposed.

To help ease congestion, Adnoc said it was restricting sales of diesel to certain hours of the day, making stations outside the city centre specialise in diesel, putting in longer hoses that would allow motorists to fill their tanks from either side of the car and increasing the number of pumps at some stations. An Adnoc employee at one of the stations said another outlet was expected to open soon on Tariff Road. Diesel sales at many stations on Abu Dhabi Island had ceased, along with other services such as car washes and oil changes at some stations, to provide more space for fuel pumps, the company said.

Adnoc's 49 petrol stations in the emirates of Sharjah, Ajman, Ras al Khaimah, Umm al Quwain and Fujairah are also seeing high levels of traffic. Adnoc stations in the northern Emirates stopped sales of diesel to lorries with Dubai licence plates last month and police have been handing out fines to vehicles queuing in Sharjah. * Additional reporting by Suleman Din @Email:mchung@thenational.ae