Pacific News Minute: Fuel shortage in Papua New Guinea forces planes to land short
Airplanes were grounded and passengers were stranded across Papua New Guinea last week. The disruptions came after the country's only petroleum supplier stopped providing jet fuel.
Puma Energy, the nation's fuel supplier, said the shortage in supply was due to a lack of foreign currency at the Central Bank of Papua New Guinea. Fuel traded in international markets is paid for in dollars.
All major airlines cancelled their scheduled flights at the country’s main airport in the capital of Port Moresby on Thursday, where hundreds of passengers were affected.
The Guardian quoted Prime Minister James Marape as saying the situation had become a national security issue.
He asked the Bank of PNG and Puma Energy to solve the problem and said the country was being 'held for ransom.'
Papua New Guinea’s largest airline, Air Niugini, warned that international flights could also be cancelled.
The country’s rugged terrain and lack of interconnecting roads make flying the most efficient means of travel. The two largest cities, Port Moresby and Lae, are connected only by plane.
The country has two major highways linking its interior highlands to the coast, and three other highways linking smaller towns. There are no railroads and even cargo is flown by air.
Paul Barker, PNG's Institute of National Affairs, said the situation sends a message about the country’s unreliability of both fuel and air services, potentially jeopardizing those important industries.