Fuel Runs Out in Major British Cities, London has Temporarily Suspended Competition Laws
The UK has suspended the operation of competition laws in the oil sector to allow fuel suppliers to share information and coordinate their response to fuel shortages.
In addition, according to the Guardian, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considering using the army to supply fuel, as due to the crisis with drivers and panic buying, fuel is down between 50% and 90% at gas stations in major cities.
"Monday will start very badly," Brian Maderson, chairman of the Oil Traders Association, told Sky News earlier in the day, from whom the above figures came. However, he linked the crisis "purely and simply" to panic.
According to later published data of the same association, about two thirds of the 5,500 gas stations that are part of it no longer have fuel. For the rest, it has either fallen sharply or will end soon. The UK has over 8,000 petrol stations.
Temporary visas are not enough
Authorities in London have been criticized for days that this crisis could have been avoided with timely action. Downing Street's first reaction was to announce temporary measures such as 5,000 work visas for drivers to save the Christmas shopping season. Even this step, which is in fact a concession to an important promise before the Brexit referendum, is insufficient in some industries, and it will be weeks before future temporary staff start working.
The combination of changes in legislation and the immigration system, on the one hand, and the pandemic, on the other, exacerbated the crisis expected this Christmas. For the BBC, Elizabeth de Jong, a representative of the employers' association in the transport sector, Logistics UK, explained that the UK lost 72,000 drivers between the second quarter of 2019 and the same period in 2021. At the same time, compensation is difficult due to the problems with conducting driving courses around the coronavirus crisis.
Some gas stations were forced to close due to a lack of supply tank drivers, while queues formed in front of others.
Authorities urged people not to buy panicked gasoline because it would only make the situation worse, but the British did not listen and this increased the number of sites without fuel.
"There are some issues"
At the same time, the crisis was felt not only in the fuel market. The lack of drivers has confused the supply chains of all goods - even food. Televisions show shops that display Christmas toys just to keep the windows not empty.
Authorities are currently working on emergency measures for the oil sector. According to the BBC, the plan is to repeal the competition law to allow oil companies to coordinate supplies and exchange information to ensure a response in the worst-hit regions.
"Although there has always been and continues to be enough fuel in refineries and terminals, we are aware that there are some problems with supply chains," said Minister of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Quazi Quarteng after a meeting with industry officials.
He said the suspension of competition laws would allow the government to work constructively with fuel producers, suppliers, carriers and traders to ensure that disruption is minimized.
In the food sector, a similar measure was taken as early as March 2020 to allow supermarkets to work together to avoid supply problems, but this was because of the coronavirus crisis. On Saturday, in addition to drivers, authorities decided to announce the issuance of 5,500 visas in the meat processing industry to avoid collapses at Christmas.
The topic was also commented on by large companies in recent days such as Shell, ExxonMobil and Greenergy. According to them, the pressure on supply is the result of "a temporary increase in customer demand, not a national shortage."
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