PONGSONA CAUSES FUEL SHORTAGE IN MARSHALLS

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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, Dec. 23) - Supertyphoon Pongsona, which hit Guam and Rota with 170 mile per hour winds two weeks ago, has left gas and jet fuel shortage in the Marshall Islands.

Three of Mobil Oil Micronesia’s fuel tanks on Guam burned during and after the storm, disrupting fuel deliveries to Marshall Islands and other islands that Mobil serves from its Guam base.

To avoid a jet fuel crisis at Majuro’s international airport, airlines servicing Majuro began buying fuel at Kwajalein and other locations earlier this week.

Mobil Guam announced that gas sold to Majuro service stations would be rationed until the shortage is fixed in early January. A Mobil tanker expected to arrive early next week with gasoline that should solve the gas shortage. But the supply of jet fuel is not expected to be replenished until December 31.

At current usage-–with two Asia Pacific Airline flights daily, Continental’s six weekly flights, Aloha Airline’s four flights per week, Air Marshall Islands and transiting planes—Mobil was estimated to have less than one week’s jet fuel supply on hand at the beginning of this week.

Because of the delays that the storm and fires caused for tanker deliveries to Majuro, Mobil is introducing measures to conserve gasoline supplies from the Majuro bulk plant until stocks return to normal levels in early January, the company said.

Mobil is rationing service station dealers to about half their normal quotas, and will also be limiting the supply of drummed gasoline from the facility. It is expected these limits will be in place until early January, Mobil officials said.

Transportation Secretary Jorelik Tibon said the government’s "Jobake" fuel vessel is expected to leave for the outer islands before Christmas and will do so with 5,000 gallons instead of the requested 10,000 gallons of fuel, since Mobil was rationing sales to government.

But the jet fuel situation in Majuro is more critical than gas. On Monday, Asia Pacific Airlines-–which is exporting fresh tuna and handling mail deliveries-–began purchasing virtually all of its fuel at Kwajalein.

Continental regional manager Art Day flew into Majuro earlier this week to discuss the fuel situation with Mobil officials, and Aloha was looking at various contingency plans.

Aloha Airlines manager John Hawley said that if all the air carriers minimize use of fuel from Majuro, the jet fuel could last into next week-–but he was anticipating the possibility of several days without jet fuel before Mobil’s tanker arrives.

Hawley said that while the more fuel efficient Boeing 737s operated by Aloha and Continental don’t use near the level of gas of APA’s Boeing 727s, they still must refuel in Majuro to meet Federal Aviation Administration fuel requirements. If they don’t, then the planes are subject to weight and passenger restrictions–-or if they carry extra fuel from other destinations, the airlines are limited in what they can carry.

December 23, 2002

Marianas Variety, www.mvariety.com 

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