12 February 2014

Liberia: Eminent Shutdown

Photo: Eric Hersman
Downtown Monrovia.

Business entities and most residences in Monrovia and Liberia as a whole are preparing for the worst economic crisis ever to hit the country as the nation faces an imminent shut down due to the shortage of diesel fuel in the local market, a key source of power generation here.

The preparation comes as the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company or LPRC announced on Monday that SIR, the national refinery in Ivory Coast, where LPRC gets over 90% of its petroleum supply is currently down until further notice.

"Due to this situation, we have to source petroleum supply from offshore Cameron and Europe. The expected shipment that should have arrived on the 10th of February is delayed until, the 15th of February; as such, the present stock is running low," the company said in a release Monday.

Liberia's Electricity Cooperation or LEC, which uses Thermal Power to generate current, heavily relies on diesel fuel to power its generators. Business entities and residences that generate their own electric power consume diesel fuel as well, but the lack of the product on the market could also mean that some companies will have to temporarily suspend production, while homes go out of power for days.

As if the company saw this coming, LEC announced on Sunday that it was shutting down most of its engines and carrying out massive power outages across the city, but minimizing the scale of outages in central Monrovia.

LEC Public Relations Director Hassan Kiawu told this writer Tuesday, a day after the entire city experienced power block out that its action is due to the shortage of diesel fuel on the market.

Mr. Kiawu said the LEC on Sunday received 20,000 gallons from its suppliers Aminata and Sons, a local petroleum company. With LEC consuming 12,000 gallons of fuel products per day, he said the corporation had no option but to announce a massive power outage and shutdown most of its engines.

He said the power outage will continue until the company receives its expected supplies on Saturday, February 15, 2014, just about the same time the LPRC hopes to get products back on the market. Many smaller businesses, like print houses that run their own generators may likely have to suspend productions as well.

The Government has dismissed this as reaching such a crisis point. Deputy Information Minister for Public Affairs, Isaac Jackson, told this paper on Tuesday that the situation has not reached a crisis proportion, saying that major steps were being taken to mitigate the impact of the fuel shortage.

But despite steps being taken and the assurance by the LPRC to the population that there is no need to panic, a gallon of fuel on the black market Tuesday was being sold for LD500 and about US6.25 in some quarters as compared to the stipulated price of LD350 or about US4.38

Most filling stations across the city on Tuesday were without the product despite announcement by the LPRC's management that diesel/fuel, would have been supplied at 80% to key institutions and filling stations, while other facilities at 55%.

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