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Cold water poured on oil strike

Ulster motorists warned against panic-buying

By Claire McNeilly

Motorists have been warned against panic-buying ahead of strike action that threatens to disrupt fuel supplies in Northern Ireland.

Petrol and diesel prices have increased across the UK since the Grangemouth crisis began last Friday, with supplies at some forecourts running out.

After talks aimed at averting industrial action failed, the Scots oil refinery looks set to shut down on Sunday and Monday, sparking fears of massive stock outs down the road.

But Maxol General Manager Brian Donaldson has moved to reassure drivers that there was no need to panic as Northern Ireland has enough fuel.

"There is unlikely to be any significant shortages of fuel in Northern Ireland if the strike does go ahead on Sunday. There is no imminent danger that supplies will run low," he said.

Mr Donaldson — who is responsible for the 100 plus Maxol stations across Northern Ireland — also said there was a contingency plan for " trunking product" from further afield, (ie. Rotterdam in Holland) in the worst case scenario.

The Scottish refinery, which processes 200,000 barrels a day, is in the process of shutting down ahead of the walkout caused by a row over pensions.

Petrol prices across the UK have been steadily rising in anticipation of shortages, and refinery owner Ineos has warned that the stoppage will affect supplies for a month and cause "chaos and disruption".

Spokesman for the AA public affairs unit, Andrew Howard, said there was no doubt that action at Grangemouth would be felt across the UK.

"We have around a dozen refineries in the UK and if one of those closes for a time, all that can happen is that prices go up," he said.

Mr Donaldson said he had noticed no significant hikes in fuel price movements on forecourts across Northern Ireland since news of the strike broke.

"Nothing suggests pump prices have been rising above what they should be," he said.

"Sales have certainly been a little more brisk this week, as people are obviously aware of the situation and they have been filling up. But there has been no panic buying."

He also said that ongoing negotiations between Ineos bosses and trade union Unite over the past week had afforded time to put provisions in place.

"Our supplier is telling us that there is sufficient stock being held at the refinery in Scotland," he said.

"Our message to motorists would be not to panic. At this stage we believe there should be ample stock and that product will be allocated. People can't really benefit from this at the expense of others."

He added: "We are urging people to be sensible our there and to adopt a normal approach when buying fuel."

Business Secretary John Hutton sought to reassure motorists over the security of oil supplies.

He told the Commons that fuel stocks, together with imports to replace lost production should be sufficient to maintain supplies.

Belfast Telegraph


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