Forum says OR Tambo jet fuel shortage to be largely resolved by month-end

27th May 2022 By: Schalk Burger - Creamer Media Senior Contributing Editor

The Jet Fuel Forum (JFF) has said the jet fuel shortage at OR Tambo International Airport should largely be resolved by the end of the month, as additional fuel will be made available to airlines whose suppliers are currently unable to fulfil their contractual obligations.

On May 24, the JFF said it was in the final stages of concluding an arrangement that would see 1.5-million litres of jet fuel being made available to some of the airlines whose fuel suppliers’ operations were disrupted by flooding in KwaZulu-Natal in recent weeks.

In its latest update on jet fuel stock levels at OR Tambo International Airport, the JFF reported that, as of May 23, the airport had 5.2 days’ worth of jet fuel, which was more than adequate to supply all airlines operating to and from the airport.

However, while more airlines have been receiving sufficient fuel from OR Tambo, thereby operating non-stop flights to their destinations, a very small number of airlines are still tankering in fuel and only uplifting top-up fuel from the airport and/or from other Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) airports.

Up to May 24, two international flights had been rerouted to other ACSA airports, while a further two were rerouted to other airports. The total number of international and domestic departure movements totalled 445 on May 23 and 24, with zero cancellations, the JFF said.

Meanwhile, the South African Petroleum Industry Association has fully injected the 20-million litres it had committed to into the Transnet multiproduct pipeline in Durban, as of May 12.

"This fuel has arrived at the National Petroleum Refiners of South Africa (Natref), and eight-million litres, which is the first batch, will be available at OR Tambo International Airport by May 27. This will be followed by another batch of eight-million litres, which will be available the following week, and the final batch of four-million litres will be available the week thereafter.

"This is in addition to the weekly 16-million litres transported directly from Natref to the airport via the dedicated Transnet Jet Fuel Pipeline," the JFF said.

Additionally, Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) has enabled rail services from Matola, in Mozambique, to OR Tambo International Airport, with 1.1-million litres arriving per week from May 3. The second train arrived on May 16.

A further 1.9-million litres of jet fuel arrived at OR Tambo International Airport on May 18 from Durban via rail. This is part of Transnet’s business continuity plan to ensure security of supply of jet fuel to OR Tambo.

"The additional 1.5-million litres of fuel, committed by the Central Energy Fund and earmarked for airlines that are unable to secure fuel from their suppliers, is expected to arrive at the airport this week. The JFF is in the process of finalising a list of airlines that will have access to this fuel and the arrangement should be in place before the end of next week," the JFF said.

"Several interventions have been made to ensure that OR Tambo International Airport is operationally ready to receive fuel via road tankers. While the final go-ahead for this is yet to be issued, the airport can accommodate road tankers if and when needed."

Further, despite renewed flooding owing to heavy rains in the Durban area during the past weekend, TFR is confident that its infrastructure rehabilitation remains on course. The next milestone is the resumption of a single line operation on the Container Corridor mainline from June 9, followed by a double line operation commencing from September 17.

"As more fuel imports become available for transportation via rail or pipelines, Transnet will ensure that this jet fuel is transported to OR Tambo International Airport," Transnet said.