The UK’s fuel shortage crisis worsened over the weekend amid “panic buying” from anxious motorists to the point that the government announced Monday evening that it had asked the army to stand by for deliveries if needed.
“A limited number of military tanker drivers will be put on alert and deployed if necessary to further stabilize the fuel supply chain,” the Energy Ministry said in a statement on Monday evening.
Despite the government’s call on the population not to panic, they flocked to gas stations, while some companies indicated that they are facing delivery difficulties that affect the supply of food in supermarkets, as a result of the repercussions of Covid and Britain’s exit from the European Union.
At a station in Leyton, an east London borough, 50 cars lined up from 06:30 on Monday, with some consumers spending part of the night waiting to refuel, according to an AFP photographer.
Across the country, “No fuel” signs or pumps covered with a sign saying “Out of service” are up, including about 30 percent of the giant British Petroleum (BP) stations affected by the crisis.
According to the Petroleum Merchants Association (BRA), nearly half of the UK’s 8,000 stations ran out of fuel on Sunday.
Medical unions, such as EveryDoctor, are concerned, which says it is receiving information from several of its members that they “spent the weekend trying to find fuel with no result”.
The situation is reminiscent of the 1970s, when an energy crisis caused fuel rationing and a three-day working week. Two decades ago, protests against rising fuel prices led to the closure of refineries and paralyzed activity in the country for weeks.
Under pressure, the government decided on Saturday to adjust its post-Brexit immigration policy and grant up to 10,500 temporary work visas, from October to December, to make up for a severe shortage of truck drivers as well as employees in key sectors of the British economy, such as poultry farming.
Also, the government has temporarily exempted the fuel distributors sector from competition laws so that they can prioritize delivery to areas where it is most needed.
Petroleum Merchants Association president Brian Maderson has limited the impact of hiring the military because transporting the highly flammable fuel requires “very specialized” drivers with specific procedures.
Regarding the possibility of European drivers who have returned to their countries due to the pandemic and Brexit, he said that there is also a shortage of drivers in continental Europe.
He pointed to the problem of heavy vehicle driving licenses that cannot be issued during the quarantine, explaining that “there are 40,000 pending applications for licenses to drive heavy vehicles by the British.”
Although the BP group welcomed the government’s decision to grant an additional number of temporary visas to truck drivers, it warned that “the sector will need time to enhance deliveries and replenish stocks at sales sites.”
The government insists that there is no shortage of fuel in the country, but rather that the crisis is caused by the rush of anxious consumers to buy it, wondering about the alarming statements made by the Federation of Road Transport Companies, which sowed the seeds of panic in them.
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