BP said nearly a third of Britain’s two petrol stations ran out of two major fuel grades on Sunday as panic buying forced the government to suspend competition laws and allow companies to work together to ease shortages.
Vehicles formed at gas stations for the third day in a row while motorists, some of them, waited for hours, to fill up after oil companies reported that lack of drivers caused transportation problems from refineries to front stations.
Some operators have had to ration supplies and others have closed gas stations.
“With the intense demand we’ve seen over the past two days, we estimate that around 30 per cent of sites in this network currently do not have any of the major fuel grades,” BP, which operates 1,200 sites in Britain, said in a statement.
“We are working to restore supplies as quickly as possible.”
The fuel scare comes as Britain faces several crises: rising international gas prices forcing energy companies out of business, carbon dioxide shortages linked to hampering meat production, and a shortage of truck drivers wreaking havoc on retailers and businesses. Leave some shelves bare.
Anglo-Dutch oil group Shell said it had also seen an increase in fuel demand.
In response, Business Minister Kwasi Kwarting said he had suspended competition laws to allow companies to share information and coordinate their responses.
“This move will allow the government to work constructively with fuel producers, suppliers, carriers and retailers to ensure disruption is as reduced as possible,” the business department said in a statement.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps had earlier called for calm, saying the shortages were only caused by panic buying and that the situation would eventually resolve on its own because the fuel could not be stored.
“There is a lot of fuel, and there is no shortage of fuel inside the country,” Shapps told Sky News.
“So the most important thing is for people to keep working like they normally do and fill up their cars when they normally do, you won’t have queues and you won’t have a pump shortage either.”
After meeting Mr Kwarteng, industry figures including representatives from Shell and Exxon Mobil Corp said in a joint statement issued by the Department of Business that they had received reassurance, and stressed that there was no shortage of fuel nationwide.
Earlier, Mr. Shapps said the shortage of truck drivers was due to Covid-19 which had disrupted the qualification process, preventing new workers from entering the market. Others blamed Brexit and poor working conditions for forcing foreign drivers out.
On Sunday, the government announced a plan to issue temporary visas to 5,000 foreign truck drivers.
But business leaders have warned that the government’s plan is a short-term fix and will not solve an acute labor shortage that threatens to disrupt significantly beyond fuel deliveries, including for retailers in the run-up to Christmas.
Shapps described the fuel panic as an “artificial situation” and blamed it on the Carriers’ Association.
“They desperately need more European drivers who are cutting Britons’ salaries,” he said.
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