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Fuel crisis looms in Kenya as truck drivers go on strike over night travel ban

By Macharia Kamau | January 25th 2017
Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter addresses petroleum traders and drivers at the Nairobi fuel depot. [PHOTO: JENIPHER WACHIE/STANDARD]

Kenyans are staring at a major fuel crisis after transporters of petroleum products vowed to continue their go-slow despite intervention by the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum.

Oil truckers had on Monday started the strike, protesting a directive by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) that requires them to operate between 6.30am and 6.30pm. This, according to the truckers, has affected their operations. They also claimed the new directive exposed them to harassment by the police.

A survey carried out by The Standard yesterday showed some petrol stations around Nairobi are already experiencing fuel shortages.

A meeting between the ministry and the truckers however did not yield much, with both sides giving conflicting information on the outcome of the meeting.

not resume work

Energy and Petroleum Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter, who brokered the compromise deal, said his ministry had held talks with representatives of the truckers and the latter had agreed to resume work.

“They had complaints about police harassment whenever they are found driving past 6.30pm. We have agreed that whenever there is such a situation, they will get police escort to the nearest safe destination,” he said. He spoke after a meeting with the truckers in Nairobi’s industrial area.

“This is not a final decision... we are going to improve on the regulations that govern the industry once the Energy Bill, currently before the Senate, becomes law.” However, a section of transporters said they would not resume work until a structured agreement that factors their grievances is signed by both parties.

The stalemate might affect the petroleum products supplies in different parts of the country.

The industry is heavily dependent on trucking for last-mile delivery of petroleum products, moving their cargo from different depots to the petrol stations.

In addition, a substantial chunk of the fuel consumed around the country is moved by road from Mombasa, which complements delivery through the pipeline.

The ERC directive banning night transport was issued in December and is believed to have been triggered by an accident along the Nairobi-Naivasha Highway that killed 40 people.

The rule is, however, contained in the laws, with the Legal Notice No. 8 of 2014 requiring that businesses licensed to move petroleum products to “ensure that petroleum tankers are only driven between 6.30am and 6.30pm”.

The businesses that operate trucks delivering petroleum products were however not happy with the move, arguing that the Government should have given them a notice to implement the directive. Kenya Transporters Association Chief Executive Alfayo Otuke said while the accident was regrettable, the Government should not make rushed policy pronouncements.

“We are not against the directive but we want consistency in the regulatory framework... we want a business environment that is predictable.

“There is minimal traffic during the night and this way it is easier for both the transporters and other road users.”

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