As fuel pumps stay dry, Britain’s Johnson says plans are in place for supply chains



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  • Johnson says fuel situation is improving
  • Army supply drivers will be deployed if necessary
  • Retailers warn against Christmas supplies
  • Brexit and the pandemic have contributed to the problem

LONDON, Sept.28 (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday sought to allay public fears as panic buying left gas pumps running dry in major cities, saying the government was preparing for a ensuring that supply chains were ready for the Christmas season.

Johnson said the situation at gas stations was improving, although in many areas hundreds of forecourts remained closed and motorists spent hours looking for fuel or sat in queues while waiting to fill their tanks.

“We are now starting to see the situation improve. The industry is telling us supplies are coming back to the forecourt normally and I really urge everyone to go about their business as usual,” Johnson said on television. Remarks.

Johnson’s comments were the first since fuel supply problems began late last week, when oil companies reported difficulties transporting gasoline and diesel from refineries to gas stations.

Opposition Labor leader Keir Starmer accused him and the government of moving from “crisis to crisis”.

There have been growing calls for doctors, nurses and other essential workers to be given priority in filling their cars to keep hospitals and social services running, but Johnson said he would be better if “we stabilize it in the normal way”. Read more

SUPPLY CHAINS

An air of chaos has gripped Britain, the world’s fifth-largest economy, in recent weeks, as a shortage of truck drivers strained supply chains and soaring wholesale prices. natural gas in Europe has driven energy companies into bankruptcy.

The post-Brexit truck driver shortage has been exacerbated by the halt in truck driver’s license testing during COVID closures as well as people leaving the transportation industry.

It has wreaked havoc on supply chains and raised the specter of widespread shortages, price hikes before Christmas and a prolonged rise in inflation.

“What we want to do is make sure that we have all the preparations necessary to hold out until Christmas and beyond, not only to supply gas stations but all parts of our supply chain,” Johnson said.

To deal with the driver shortage, the government was forced to put in place measures it had previously ruled out, such as issuing temporary visas to 5,000 foreign drivers.

It has also put on hold a limited number of military tanker drivers who will be deployed to deliver fuel if needed.

A sign telling customers that fuel has run out is pictured at a gas station in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, Great Britain on September 28, 2021. REUTERS / Carl Recine

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Carriers, gas stations and retailers say there is no silver bullet because the shortage of truck drivers – estimated at around 100,000 – is so severe, and because fuel transportation requires training. and additional licenses.

Ministers want companies to pay more and offer truck drivers better conditions, rather than relying on cheap foreign labor.

“What I don’t think the people of this country want to do is fix all of our runaway immigration issues again,” Johnson said. “We tried this for a long time… and in the end people could see it led to a low pay, low skill approach.”

‘CRAZY’

Industry groups said the worst fuel shortages appeared to be in London, the south-east and other English cities. Brawls broke out in some forecourt as drivers scrambled for fuel and photos on social media showed people filling old water bottles with fuel.

“I can’t believe it – it’s crazy,” said David Scade, a 33-year-old delivery driver who drove for hours in search of fuel in London. “They keep saying there is no shortage but I guess everyone is freaking out now.”

The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), which represents independent fuel retailers who make up 65% of all of Britain’s 8,380 forecourts, said there were signs of the crisis slowing.

“We did a survey of our members this morning and only 37% of the forecourt reported running out of fuel today,” said Gordon Balmer, executive director of the PRA, who previously reported that up to 90 % of stations had problems.

“With regular replenishments, this percentage should improve further over the next 24 hours.”

Retailers, truck drivers and logistics companies have warned that prices for everything from energy to Christmas gifts are expected to rise due to the shortage of truck drivers.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has urged the government to expand the size and scope of its temporary visa regime.

“It will be several months before there are enough new UK drivers to cover the shortfall,” said Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at BRC.

European drivers have also indicated that they will not accept the visa offer, which only lasts until December 24. Some Polish carriers said the offer was laughable and the German freight industry said drivers who left after Brexit would not be returning. Read more

Additional reporting by Ben Makori, James Davey and Joice Alves in London and Rene Wagner in Berlin; Written by Michael Holden and Guy Faulconbridge; edited by Alistair Bell, Philippa Fletcher, Nick Macfie and Gareth Jones

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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