Aviation fuel scarcity: Ghana runs out of Jet A1, operators panic

* Airlines now chase fuel to Libreville
*Condemn decrepit facilities at Lagos, Abuja airports
Ghana, which served as succour to airlines operating in Nigeria in acquisition of aviation fuel, otherwise known as Jet A1 is said to be running out of stock, thereby compounding the already worsened situation of airlines.
Aviation fuel scarcity has become a perennial problem prompting the carriers to source the commodity in Accra, which is cheaper to what is obtained in Nigeria.
Jet A1
Before now, Ghana was said to have the highest cost of fuel across the sub-region. Worried by the hardship faced by the carriers, Ghana’s National Petroleum Authority (NPA) took a decision to reduce the cost of aviation fuel by 20 percent. Aside reduction in price, the availability of the commodity made it a destination for many carriers in search of fuel.
  Regional Manager, North, West and Central Africa for South African Airways, Ohis Ehimiaghe made the disclosure at an interactive session with the media, saying, despite the challenges posed by difficult operating environment in the country, the airline would continue to tap into the burgeoning Nigeria’s aviation market.
The airline chief lamented that for long, airlines had been battling scarcity of Jet A1, noting that unavailability of the commodity for several months has done incalculable damage to their operations.
His words, “There is no Jet A1 in Nigeria. The priority is not on aviation fuel but on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS). We get it at a premium here, but unfortunately, Ghana is running dry of the commodity. The high cost of fuel adds to cost of doing business.”
“We are fortunate that South Africa Airways have huge operations in Ghana. Most times, we fly to Libreville to get fuel”, he added.
He said his firm has reviewed its contract with its fuel suppliers  in Nigeria hinting it was the best thing to do under the prevailing situation.
“We have contracts with all our fuel suppliers throughout the year in Nigeria. The contract is supposed to run for two years but because of the situation at hand, we allow it to run for one year. This helps us to restrategise in order not to be caught unawares.”
Country Manager for one of the European airlines who pleaded anonymity confirmed the running out of stock of Jet A1 in Accra.
The source said the carrier had on Tuesday requested for 35, 000 litres of Jet A1 but was told they could only sell 25, 000 litres to the airline, adding that the situation is becoming dire for operators.
Aviation fuel is central to the operations of an airline, as it constitutes between 35-40 per cent of an airline’s cost. The price of the commodity – laden with taxes – in the West African sub-region, is the highest in Africa.
The skyrocketing price of JETA1 in Nigeria has added more to the pains of airlines, which use 30 per cent of their revenues for fuelling aircraft.
The commodity costs more in Abuja and respectively. While the specialised fuel is sold for about $2.30 cents per gallon in Nigeria, $2.30 in Benin and $1.94 cents per gallon in Cameroon, it is sold for close to $3.14 cents in Ghana, which also produces oil. In Luanda, Angola (also an oil producing country), it costs $3.75 per gallon; Libreville $2.05 per gallon; Khartoum, Sudan $2.44 per gallon.
It is only Equatorial Guinea that sells JET A1 for $0.46. Jet fuel prices in some African capitals are double the global average and it is posing a threat to its aviation sector development.
The high cost of jet fuel in Africa compared to other regions due to distribution inefficiencies and infrastructure constraints, has held back the development of airlines and fare reduction.
The Federal Government had recently assured that the problem associated with scarcity of aviation fuel would soon be a thing of the past when government finalises work on Kaduna and Port-Harcourt refineries that would be dedicated solely to the refining of aviation fuel.
Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika said for the operators to overcome scarcity, plans were in top gear to refine aviation kero locally which he said would bring down cost.
Sirika stated that the refining of the commodity in Nigeria would help to bring down the rising cost of aviation fuel.
Ehimiaghe also took a swipe at the decrepit infrastructure at most of the nation’s aerodrome. He lamented that facilities are in terrible shape, stressing that the expectation of passengers is to get good service right from check-in to when he flies.
“When a passenger buys ticket, he expects a five star treatment. Most of the facilities at Lagos airport have collapsed. Going through the Lagos airport is not the best of experience you want to go through. We also have infrastructure challenges at Abuja airport. The runway has damaged four of our aircraft.”
Wole Shadare