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Fuel Matters

Burning issues

Friday, September 25, 2020

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EXECUTIVES from the Jamaica Gasolene Retailers Association (JGRA) are awaiting a meeting date with new Energy Minister Daryl Vaz to discuss several issues plaguing the sector.

In February, JGRA President Gregory Chung sought cooperation from then Minister of Science, Energy and Technology (SET), Fayval Williams, for assistance with a mass media campaign urging the proper use of gas stations across the island.

This followed the fire at a Fesco petrol station in Mandeville, Manchester, in which a 59-year-old man died from burns and other people were injured as the structure went up in flames.

In April, Chung raised the issue that gasolene dealers continue to face huge losses from the downturn in business due to measures implemented by the Government to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“The gas station dealers are suffering terribly since COVID. And while the stations are still open, and we have to be thankful for that, they have seen losses of 50 per cent or more — some as high as 70 per cent on the volumes — and gas stations rely on the volumes to remain viable,” Chung argued. “Some have not been able to adjust their expenses in the same proportion and are operating at a loss.”

Currently, the curfew runs from 8:00 pm to 5:00 am and will continue until October 7. Service stations are closed an hour before the curfew start time to allow for staff to get home.

Another serious issue raised by the gas station owners recently is the constant use of their premises as a parking lot or terminus for route taxis.

In February Chung pointed out that it was not just the parking, but the illegal activities surrounding the parking.

He said that the presence and activities of the transport vehicles, do not allow the dealers, or their staff, to adequately monitor people for safe behaviour.

He said the use of the gas stations as taxi stands adds to the confusion and safety hazards which gas stations continue to experience. He also noted that it has been a long-standing problem on which the JGRA and the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) have collaborated, but with little success.

However, the major new issue emerging in the sector has been the claim by JGRA members that they are competing with the illegal sale of gasolene from trucks they refer to as “mobile gas stations”.

In July, Chung headed a team from the JGRA which informed the joint select committee (JSC) of Parliament studying the draft of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) that, among the most serious, recent threats to the sector has been the emergence of mobile vendors.

“These are mobile gas stations, and through the entrepreneurial spirit of our country they have found ways to circumvent all the different regulatory agencies that we report to,” he told the committee.

The revelation certainly came as a huge surprise to the parliamentarians on the JSC, especially after the JGRA members explained that the delivery trucks for the illegal activity “looks like old kerosene transport trucks that once sold kerosene to people in some communities”.

According to the JGRA members, they have equipment to show the amount and the cost of the petrol they sell.


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