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Thousands of families are expected to travel to different parts of the country to spend time with their loved ones over the festive period, which begins tonight, and extends to the New Year.
Energy permanent secretary Patrick Nyoike blamed motorists for the shortage, saying they were buying more than they usually did after they panicked.
Even as oil marketers and Government officials held a crisis meeting to resolve the shortage, public service and private vehicles alike jammed the few petrol stations, which were offering the commodity in the city and other major towns.
Many motorists filled up their fuel tanks, fearing that their Christmas plans would be jeopardised by the shortage.
Energy assistant minister Charles Keter called the emergency meeting between oil firms and State agencies, including the Kenya Pipeline Company and the Kenya Revenue Authority, to unravel the riddle of the shortage.
Mr Keter, who chaired the talks, admitted that a shortage had indeed gripped the country but said that enough supplies had been secured to rectify the anomaly.
“We would like to assure the public that we have sufficient supply of both petrol and diesel and we are working round the clock to have them delivered to pump stations,” he said.
However, he did not say what had caused the shortage.
Oil marketers at the meeting had blamed motorists for rushing to fill their tanks in a panic. As a result, Mr Nyoike appealed to the public to be conservative in their consumption since all brands of fuel were readily available.
According to delivery data obtained by the Nation from the Kenya Pipeline Corporation, a total of 3.1 million litres of premium petrol had been sold to marketers by Sunday.
Another 5.8 million litres of diesel had also been sold, although it was the first to show signs of scarcity. The figures also show that 7.1 million litres of Jet A-1, used for fuelling planes, had been released to marketers to serve airports in Nairobi, Mombasa, Eldoret and Kisumu.
“We are releasing these consignments to the marketers according to the orders that we receive from them on a daily basis. If we do not receive any from anyone, then we cannot supply,” said Mr Jabes Manyala, the chief technical manager at Kenya Pipeline.
The shortage has sparked fears of fuel price increases barely a month after the cost came down following a decline in the price of crude oil internationally.
In Kenya, petrol continued to be sold at Sh110 per litre long after the global prices had come down by more than 60 per cent.
Local oil firms adjusted the prices after protests from the public and threats by the Government to introduce price controls.
Most fuel stations reduced their prices by a margin of Sh10 to Sh15 across the board. By yesterday, petrol was retailing at between Sh75.80 and Sh86 at most stations.
In the recent past, oil marketers have blamed KPC for intermittent shortages, saying it was unable to meet rising demand. In turn, Mr KPC managing director George Okungu blamed the shortage of frequent electricity black-outs that had affected the parastatal’s pumping capacity.
In Western Kenya some oil dealers increased pump prices because of the scarcity. This prompted public transport operators to double fares.
A litre of diesel was retailing at Sh79.50 up from Sh 76.50 while super petrol was being sold at Sh87.90 up from Sh85.90 per litre in the region.
KPC has said it has sufficient fuel in its depots in the region after steady supply was restored.
“There is steady supply of petroleum products in our depots to meet the local and export market,” said KPC acting regional manager Xavier Baraza.
The region was receiving an average of 5.6 million litres of petroleum products with 70 per cent of the fuel being for export.
But consumers in the region have asked the Government to introduce price controls to random price increases by oil dealers.
KPC Kisumu depot manager Joshua Nyatebe attributed the shortage to delays by oil marketers to comply with customs regulations.
“We have optimum supply of all the products at our depot and we have been loading since the week began, but fewer trucks have arrived as they rush for clearance by the Kenya Revenue Authority,” he said.
In Nakuru, prices remained unusually high. A spot check by the Nation indicated that some stations were selling petrol at Sh106.
At the Kenol filling station on the Nakuru-Eldoret highway, unleaded petrol was being sold at Sh105, diesel at Sh101 per litre.
In Wajir, hundreds of taxi and matatu drivers took to the streets to protest against high fuel prices.
The local taxi drivers association officials accused filling stations in the town of exploiting them, yet oil prices were declining in the world market.
Diesel and petrol were being sold at Sh105 and Sh110 per litre respectively.
“These guys are exploitation us. We are calling upon the Government to intervene,” said Mr Mohamed Daud, the chairman of the association.
Wajir East district commissioner Henry Ochako promised the protesters that the Governmental would raise the matter with oil companies.
PARASTATAL heads who signed the Mombasa port community charter risk being sacked if their agencies do not deliver on the contents of the new entity. The charter signed between the government and the private sector aims at improving the movement of cargo from the port into hinterland