KARACHI: Oil tankers’ operators went on an indefinite strike on Monday and suspended supply of petroleum products from Karachi to the whole country in protest over a number of issues pertaining to issuance of traffic fines by the Motorway police, strict regulations relating to the fitness of their vehicles and differences over transportation fare with the oil marketing companies.

The situation fanned fears of shortage of petrol and diesel at fuel stations across the country if the trend continued for another day or two.

The All Pakistan Oil Tankers Owners Association (APOTOA) and Oil Tankers Contractors Association (OTCA) had last week jointly given a strike call and warned the authorities that they would keep the supply suspended for an indefinite period if their demands were not met by the companies and the law enforcement agencies.

This is the second time this year tanker owners have gone on strike

“There are three key issues which forced us to call the strike,” said Israr Ahmed Shinwari, the spokesman for the two organisations.

“After the Ahmedpur Sharqia incident last month, the traffic and petroleum authorities have imposed strict laws for oil tankers’ fitness, which included fixing an extra axel in the vehicle which everyone cannot afford,” he said. “Secondly, after that incident the Motorway police are exploiting the situation and imposing heavy fines on minor issues. And the last issue is related to oil marketing companies which are not paying proper fare of the supply and that too through a much delayed payment schedule.”

It is the second strike called by the oil tankers’ operators after April this year when they had suspended the supply of petroleum products across the country over the imposition of the general sales tax on services by provinces without the input tax adjustment settlement at the federal level.

However, the recent strike had not so far affected the availability of petroleum products, but petrol pump owners feared that the situation could turn worse if the strike continued for another day or two.

“There are more than 40,000 oil tankers involved in the supply so you can imagine the volume of petroleum products transported every day,” said a spokesman for the All Pakistan CNG and Petroleum Dealers. “All those tankers have come to a halt so it naturally affects the business at retail level. The petrol pumps keep stocks depending on their sales but that would definitely come to an end one day. So, we believe the strike has left no impact at the retail level till now, but the situation would not be the same after two days, if the strike continues.”

Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2017