- The jet fuel crisis at Cape Town International Airport has been dealt another blow by further delays in the arrival of a shipment, with airlines initially told to reduce fuel intake only there.
- The latest estimate is that the jet fuel situation in Cape Town will be back to normal by October 3.
- The Airlines Association of South Africa has expressed concern over jet fuel rationing in Cape Town, saying it imposes additional cost burdens on airlines and could eventually disrupt schedules and cancel flights.
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Rough seas are further delaying the arrival of jet fuel shipments, worsening a supply crisis at Cape Town International Airport and threatening disruption and possible flight cancellations.
News24Business reported on Monday that Cape Town International had sufficient jet fuel reserves after a supply shipment lasting four to six days due to bad weather, which was delayed due to arrive at the local port last Sunday.
The shipment was supposed to arrive by the end of the week. Initial estimates were that supplies would stabilize by October 2, but according to an airline CEO identified by News24 but who requested anonymity, the latest estimate of normalization could be as early as October 3.
Airports Company SA (ACSA) confirmed on Tuesday evening that, unfortunately, adverse sea conditions persist and may delay the ship with jet fuel an additional day.
Meanwhile, fuel suppliers delivered an additional 2 million liters of jet fuel to airports this week to ease pressure on supplies.
Since ACSA issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) last week, airlines and fuel suppliers have been engaged in required reductions and reductions in consumption of jet fuel while ensuring continuity of operations.
According to ACSA, the airport is currently operating on 4.5 days worth of jet fuel stock and will continue to monitor, engage with fuel suppliers and airlines and provide regular updates on the issue.
“ACSA continues to engage fuel suppliers and airlines to mitigate risks to fuel stocks and prevent and minimize flight disruptions,” it said.
But the current rationing of jet fuel in Cape Town is a major cause for concern for the Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA), which represents most airlines in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. AASA expects jet fuel rationing will likely cause disruption to airline schedules and possibly flight cancellations, and says the aviation industry and the SA economy cannot afford it.
AASA said in a statement, “We appreciate the efforts made by ACSA to manage fuel stocks at Cape Town International Airport. However, increased jet fuel rationing has brought into sharp focus South Africa’s dependence on imported jet fuel.” Tuesday evening.
It called on governments and fuel suppliers to immediately put in place “very robust resilience plans” to ensure that sufficient stocks of aviation fuel are always available to airlines.
AASA notes that, while local and regional short-haul airlines are able to tanker fuel – that is, carry more fuel than is optimally needed for a single flight – to maintain their schedules, they incur additional costs to do so. This is because the extra fuel load increases the overall weight of the plane, thereby providing extra fuel. More maintenance is also required as aircraft engines and many other components are working hard.
“This puts further cost pressure on airlines at a time when they are already struggling with a more than 100% increase in jet fuel prices, higher finance charges and interest rates, as well as increased labor and other costs,” AASA said.
Furthermore, long-haul transcontinental carriers may be unable to tanker fuel over large distances. According to AASA, these airlines may have to resort to intermediate en-route refueling stops before commencing their long north and east-bound return flights, or fly to Johannesburg or Durban.
“In such circumstances we urge the government to waive additional on-route air navigation and airport fees to comply with fuel rationing in Cape Town and continue to provide intercontinental connectivity to local airlines and the economy of the region as a whole,” AASA said.
Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport faced a jet fuel crisis from March to May this year after floods in KwaZulu-Natal damaged rail and energy infrastructure. This forced some international airlines to divert flights to Durban and Windhoek to refuel on their return journeys.