U.K. Takes Emergency Steps as Forecourts Run Dry: Energy Update

  • In Business
  • 2021-09-27 08:45:42Z
  • By Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) --

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The U.K. government took emergency measures late Sunday to try to ease acute fuel shortages across the country, as gasoline retailers shut pumps after days of panic buying.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had already caved in to industry demands to issue 5,000 short-term visas to truck drivers, while newspapers reported Monday that he may draft in the army to help. The risk is that a prolonged fuel crisis will damage the post-pandemic recovery, putting more strain on already stretched supply lines.

Key Developments:

  • Government suspends competition rules in the sector so that companies can share information

  • Some members of Petrol Retailers Association are reporting 90% of sites have run dry: Sky

  • BP Plc says it has run out of fuel at a third of its stations

  • Industry held talks with ministers over weekend; London mayor seeks to secure fuel supplies for key workers

  • Businesses say move to ease visa rules for truckers won't be enough

Timestamps are London.

London Taxi Drivers Seek Special Status as They Struggle to Find Fuel (9:29 a.m.)

The London Taxi Drivers' Association said on Twitter that it has been urging City Hall to lobby the government to designate some fuel stations for the use of essential workers only.

One black-cab driver told Bloomberg how she tried 10 north London gas stations on Saturday night, queuing for two hours at one site before the police came to clear away motorists when it ran out of fuel. She eventually found a BP garage open at 6am on Sunday morning.

"I ended up searching from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., because I wouldn't have been able to work the next day if I didn't," said Miss Bell, waiting for customers at a north London taxi rank on Monday. She declined to give her first name.

Union Says Government Bid to Attract More Truck Drivers Will Fail (9:03 a.m.)

Poor working conditions mean the U.K.'s bid to attract truck drivers on short-term visas will be a "dead end," said Edwin Atema, head of research and enforcement at the FNV union, which represents drivers across Europe.

"The EU workers we speak to will not go to the U.K. to help the U.K. out," Atema told BBC Radio 4 on Monday.

Across Europe, drivers who are "plagued by exploitation" have been leaving the industry as multinational companies drive down costs, Atema said. But the situation is particularly acute in the U.K. because there is no collective agreement for the whole road transport industry, he said.

London Mayor Says Emergency Services Have Fuel, Key Workers Struggling (8:56 a.m.)

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said his office is working with the Department of Transport to try to find ways of securing fuel supplies for key workers.

"Our emergency services and our buses have enough and they've got some in reserve," Khan said in an interview with Sky News. "We're hearing stories about care workers, people who work in hospitals who need their car to go to hospital, black cab drivers, private-hire vehicle drivers not being able to fuel up."

Labour Party Accuses Government of Worsening Panic (8:25 a.m.)

The opposition Labour Party blamed the government for the current situation, saying it was complacent before the fuel crisis occurred and has stoked panic through poor communications.

"The government is tweeting out in capital letters: 'There is no fuel crisis'," Labour treasury spokeswoman Rachel Reeves told Times Radio on Monday. "I don't know anything that's more likely to induce panic."

Action taken by the government to resolve the shortage of truck drivers falls short of what is needed, Reeves said.

Some Fuel Retailers Say 90% of Sites Are Dry: PRA (7:10 a.m.)

The Petrol Retailers Association, representing service stations in the U.K., said some of its members in England have all but run out of fuel.

"It looks as though the panic-buying has really been exacerbated in the main urban centers, particularly in England," Brian Madderson, chairman of the PRA, said on Sky News. Some larger retailers report 50% of sites are dry; "some even report as many as 90% dry yesterday."

While the issue is "quite acute," Madderson said "I am keeping my fingers crossed it will be less of a problem by the end of the week."

U.K. May Bring in the Army: Times (6 a.m.)

Soldiers may be deployed to drive tankers of gasoline to service stations in the coming days, the Times reported. That's because it will take about two weeks for new visas to be issued to foreign drivers under the plan announced over the weekend, the paper said.

Kwarteng Enacts Emergency Protocol (Sunday)

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng triggered the "Downstream Oil Protocol" to exempt the industry from competition rules temporarily.

The move allows companies to share information so they can prioritize deliveries to where they are needed most. And it makes it easier for the government to work with producers, suppliers, hauliers and retailers.

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