LAHORE: Commuters in the provincial capital landed in trouble as petrol shortage severely hit the city and some parts of Punjab on Wednesday. A large number of filling stations of different oil marketing companies in the city shut down Tuesday night as they ran out of fuel and supplies remained suspended. On the other hand, panic-stricken buyers continued to form long queues at the filling stations that were still open, hoping to get their tanks filled before those stations also run out of petrol. Some of the commuters at a filling station in Sabzazar said that they had to leave their houses an hour earlier in order to get fuel from petrol pumps that had not suspended operations. “After every few months this crisis returns to haunt the commuters. Sometimes the reason is a strike by oil transporters, other times it is the drying up of fuel reserves, like it is happening nowadays. But the end result is the same: commuters are the ones to suffer,” said Irfan, a motorist waiting for his turn to get fuel at a filling station in Iqbal Town. “I return home from office very late at night, so I usually get my tank filled on the way home whenever I see fuel gauge touching the mid point. However, I could not get fuel during the last two days because most of the filling stations in my area were closed, while those still selling petrol had long queues. I thought the crisis was temporary, so I decided not to waste my time in those lines, as I still had some fuel left. Now I am waiting in the queue for my turn to get petrol here because I also ran out of fuel and have no choice but to wait,” said Haider, another motorist. According to reports, the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) said that the director general (oil) had already been informed regarding the situation of petroleum products’ reserves on September 15. In a letter to the Petroleum Ministry, OGRA had told the authorities that seven days of reserves were left in the country, and warned that the situation could worsen if fuel was not imported on an urgent basis. On the other hand, the Pakistan State Oil (PSO) immediately decided to import ships laden with petrol to control the existing crisis. According to the company, a ship carrying petrol docked at the Karachi port, whereas the second one was scheduled to arrive today (Thursday). The PSO said that the company currently had fuel reserves for up to eight days, whereas uninterrupted supply of oil to PSO filling stations was being ensured across the country. According to reports, fuel shortfall would be overcome soon as the PSO has accelerated the pace of importing the fuel as compared to other oil marketing companies, which were slow in bringing petroleum products into the country just to save themselves from inventory loss. According to the officials of the Petroleum Ministry, the fuel shortfall is temporary and the demand and supply gap would be filled soon. PSO authorities said that the company’s imports were in the full swing, and that discharging of motor gasoline had commenced from the vessel carrying 60,000 metric tonnes of the fuel. They said that another vessel carrying 55000 metric tonnes of fuel would arrive at the Karachi port today. There have also been demands of an investigation from the government and OGRA against oil marketing companies, because just to save themselves from the inventory loss they slowed down the imports. Following the cold attitude from the oil marketing companies, the PSO geared up the imports and with the arrival of five to six vessels in the next seven to 10 days, the oil reserves would reach to 17 days, defusing the problems arising after the closure of filling stations. Published in Daily Times, September 21st 2017.