Another jet fuel crisis strikes Cape Town airport as load shedding impacts key supplier

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The large supplier has only been able to produce a fraction of what it normally does.
The large supplier has only been able to produce a fraction of what it normally does.

A jet fuel crisis has developed at Cape Town International Airport due to the largest supplier not being able to meet demand as a result of technical issues caused by load shedding.

Airports Company SA (ACSA) sent out a notice in this regard to airmen on Friday afternoon, a reliable source told News24.

Another reliable source in the aviation industry, who wants to remain anonymous, told News24 airlines were informed that this large supplier has only been able to supply a fraction of what it normally does.

He says domestic airlines were told late on Thursday night of the supply issues and that tankering fuel was required immediately.

"The problem with domestic airlines is that, if they tanker fuel, for example from Johannesburg, they will likely have to drop the number of passengers on the flight. This will mean impacting passengers, flying at a loss and potentially having to cancel flights," he says.

"ACSA should immediately instruct international carriers to refuel elsewhere, like Durban or Johannesburg, and require all domestic airlines to tanker as much as possible without bumping passengers. This will help to preserve the fuel that is still available."

He is concerned that ACSA will not act quickly enough, suggesting:

ACSA should start trucking fuel to Cape Town immediately.

In December 2022 ACSA said jet fuel supply challenges experienced at O R Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg and in Cape Town were a thing of the past. 

Stock levels at these airports dropped to alarmingly low levels at times during 2022. The supply chain to O R Tambo was hit by flooding in KwaZulu-Natal and a shipment delayed by high seas impacted Cape Town.

In a bid to speedily resolve the issue, ACSA says it is currently facilitating discussions between fuel suppliers, airlines and other stakeholders to ensure that adequate levels of fuel stock are available, to ensure continuity of operations.

ACSA provides the fuel depot and storage tank facilities, which the fuel suppliers utilise to provide fuel to the airlines. 

According to ACSA, the fuel suppliers have confirmed that they are working to secure additional fuel stocks. An official Notice to Airmen will be issued on Friday night to request airlines to engage their suppliers and to limit uplift where required. 

"At present, we cannot quantify the impact that the current low fuel levels are likely to have on flights in and out of Cape Town International. However, engagements are at an advanced stage and ACSA is hopeful that the fuel suppliers will provide the necessary quantity of fuel to the airlines, and source the additional fuel stocks to maintain continuity of operations," says ACSA.

At this stage no flights have been cancelled.

Gudrun Gorner, a spokesperson for the US carrier United, which offers direct flights to Cape Town, told News24 that as things currently stand, its Cape Town flights are operating normally.

"We are keeping a close watch on the situation and will alert customers to any changes to the schedule should they become necessary," she said. 

* This article was updated at 18:50 on Friday 3 March with comment from ACSA and United.

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