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Relief to motorists as fuel shortage eases

BUSINESS
By | May 7th 2011

By Macharia Kamau

The fuel situation seemed to have normalised by close of business Friday.

Most retail outlets in the city centre and along major roads reported they had ample stocks of super petrol, the commodity that had been in short supply throughout the week.

The acute shortage of petrol started on Sunday, with the Government and oil marketers blaming each other for the crisis that posed a threat to the economy.

Motorists were forced to queue at the few petrol stations that had super petrol for hours on Tuesday through Thursday, at times causing traffic snarl ups on major roads around the city. The traffic nightmare was made worse by the heavy rains that have pounded the city this week.

The situation was, however, different yesterday, with filling stations especially in the CBD having many but manageable motorists. "We have enough stocks of petrol. Motorists are still buying large quantities so we had to ask for more stocks from our depot. Our tanks have not run dry today," said a pump attendant at a Kenol/Kobil retail outlet along Koinange Street. Another station, however, reported having run out of petrol in the cause of the day but had replenished in the evening.

While neither the Government nor the marketers have offered a solid explanation as to what caused the shortage despite the country seeming to have enough stocks of super petrol, analysts say an inefficient distribution system is to blame.

Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi also said underinvestment in the sector has played part in seeing the industry operate in a seemingly permanent state of crisis.

"There have been gross under investment in the petroleum sector over time and we have been operating on a hand to mouth basis," Mr Kiraitu said on Thursday at a media briefing. He said for the industry to operate without any hitch, the country would need to invest Sh84 billion in the supply and distribution infrastructure, including upgrade of Kenya Petroleum Refinery (KPR). The refinery had its last major upgrade in 1974.

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