Feb 9, 2023

Mawazo Writing Africa

Writing about the main

Emergency measures put in place to stabilise jet fuel supply at OR Tambo International Airport

The government says emergency measures have been put in place to ensure a steady supply of kerosene to Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport amid fears the crisis could hurt the airline industry’s recovery.

Supplies of Jet fuel to the airport, one of the busiest in Africa, have been restricted in recent weeks due to flood damage to railway lines in KwaZulu-Natal disrupting transport. The shortage of jet fuel has disrupted airline schedules, especially international airlines, forcing them to make detours to refuel and possibly increasing their costs.

Over the weekend, the Transportation Department said that kerosene shipments would be possible through a special pipeline shipment will take place. A ship with a cargo of fuel arrived at the port of Durban on May 5.

“The process of pumping the fuel into [Sasol’s Sasolburg] Natref refinery will begin. The fuel will be routed to OR Tambo to ensure availability for aircraft once the quality control process is complete,” the department said.

SA depends on kerosene supply from local production and imports, according to the SA Petroleum Industry Association (Sapia) said. However, rail deliveries have been suspended due to extensive damage to railway lines in KwaZulu-Natal.

Transnet Freight Rail is pushing to put part of the rail system between Durban and Johannesburg into operation from mid-June. This will restore at least 50% of the usual rail capacity from the coast.

Airports Company SA (Acsa), which operates SA’s airports, said stock levels at OR Tambo are stable overall. Acsa has stated that an expected volume of around 20 million liters of jet fuel will come through a special pipeline shipment. Airlines are responsible for sourcing their own fuel and Acsa provides storage.

Acsa recently issued a notice to officially notify international and domestic airlines around the world, if necessary to refuel at other airports in the country.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said airlines are working with Acsa to ensure there are no disruptions to their operations “by making technical stops for refueling at other airports,” like that King Shaka International Airport in Durban.

Aaron Munetsi, CEO of the Airlines Association of Southern Africa, which represents all major airlines in South Africa and the region, said while the fuel situation at OR Tambo remains critical, there are signs for improvement.

The association “is in daily contact with Acsa and Sapia. The latest report [as of May 6] shows that with current demand, the airport has 6.4 days of fuel stocks and should not pose a problem for airline fuel suppliers,” Munetsi said.

He said domestic and regional flights are unaffected, in part because they can easily refuel at other local airports.

Acsa CEO Mpumi Mpofu is expected to speak at a media conference on Monday to update SA on the jet fuel issue in OR Tambo International Airport.