Panic at the pumps: How NI missed out on fuel crisis – but could now see petrol prices rocket – Belfast Telegraph

The fuel crisis has dominated headlines in recent days with motorists queuing for hours and hours in parts of Great Britain.

rivers in Northern Ireland have not been faced with the same long queues as people scramble to get fuel but warnings of high prices at the pumps lie ahead. 

But why is this the case?

Last Thursday a number of BP and Esso-owned Tesco Alliance stores shut throughout the UK. Since then there have been long queues outside garage forecourts for the past few days.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the situation was “now stabilising” and things were “getting better on the forecourts”.

In the meantime, the government has put the Army on standby to help deliver supplies, and announced measures to ease the shortage of tanker drivers.

The key issue is there aren’t enough drivers to supply petrol. Brexit meant that some drivers returned home to their EU countries, while the impact of the pandemic prompted others to also make the decision.

The sector has also witnessed increasing numbers of drivers retiring over recent years.

There is an estimated shortage of more than 100,000 HGV drivers and petrol is only the latest industry to be hit.

The lack of drivers has caused problems for a range of industries – from supermarkets to fast food chains.

While Northern Ireland has largely not been affected by panic buying, Asda revealed that it has implemented a temporary £30 cap on buying fuel at its 11 filling stations in here in response to the situation.

The measure was introduced over the weekend and will be regularly reviewed, a spokesperson for the retailer said.

It is understood Tesco has not implemented a cap at its forecourts here with the retailer insisting on Tuesday it has a “good availability of fuel”.

It is thought Northern Ireland has been able to shield itself from the fuel crisis due to the controversial NI Protocol, which has effectively put in place a trade border down the Irish sea.

The protocol allows Northern Ireland to follow EU rules on product standards and the free flow of goods into the Republic of Ireland.

However, goods coming in from Great Britain are checked at Northern Ireland ports.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has threatened to pull down the Stormont Assembly over the protocol as ministers would resign from their posts rather than implement further border checks.

Hannon Transport in Aghalee, based in Co Antrim, said last week that is currently not experiencing any fuelling problems but it does have an “all-Ireland solution” for its fuel – thanks to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Hannon Transport’s group marketing manager, Owen McLaughlin, explained the haulage company is not experiencing the same problems as those in the rest of the UK.

“At the moment, we haven’t experienced any issues and we would still have trucks that do fill up in GB but we haven’t had any personal warnings of avoiding certain places,” he explained.

“There is the standard thing of don’t go below a quarter of a tank because you may not be able to fill up where you want to fill up.”

Due to a European fuel rebate Northern Ireland companies qualify for through the protocol, Mr McLaughlin explained it takes away “quite a bit of pressure”.

“That has been because of the protocol,” he said. “There was a bit of [concern] after July 1, but the EU have accepted that Northern Ireland should still fall under that.

“There’s less pressure on Northern Ireland hauliers.”

Fuel price warning

But it’s not all good for drivers in NI. The RAC has warned that fuel prices could reach record levels even if the current crisis ends.

The RAC has said average prices may hit 143p per litre for petrol and 145p per litre for diesel in the next few weeks.

That is up from the current level of 135p per litre for petrol and 138p per litre for diesel.

This is due to global oil market prices. The price of natural gas has also rocketed, prompting in hikes for customers in Northern Ireland

RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “The price drivers can expect to pay at the pumps in the coming weeks is being driven by what’s happening with the cost of oil, not by the recent delivery issues that have affected some UK forecourts.

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