Thursday 8 December 2022

New Zealand has started rationing jet fuel to airlines

A bad batch of aviation jet fuel has forced New Zealand to ration its jet fuel supplies. The country, which isn't expected to receive its next shipment until next week, is looking for short-term solutions in order to minimize disruption in the run-up to Christmas. However, larger carriers aren't yet worried about having to make schedule changes.

Airlines were told to ration their fuel after provider Z Energy received a contaminated batch of fuel. The rationing of jet fuel is expected to continue until the 18th of December with the next shipment of fuel arriving around the 12th / 13th of December.

The off-specification load of around 25 million litres of jet fuel had to be returned overseas for refining after the closure of Marsden point - what was the country's only oil refinery.

"So, what we are seeing now is that there is no resilience… in the system," Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Craig Harrison said.

Board of Airline Representatives executive director Cath O'Brien said it's concerning to hear that off-spec fuel has been arriving.

"Airlines are working really hard to do all they can to not interrupt passenger services or cargo services because of course you know this is the busiest Christmas that New Zealand has seen for years and years," O'Brien said.

If an airline is presented with less fuel than it needs, in the first instance it will reduce its weight.

O'Brien said cargo restrictions so far have been small and airlines are still working through what flights will be affected.

She said airlines that operate domestically or on short haul will tanker fuel, which means they will pick up extra fuel in places like Australia and fly into New Zealand heavy with that fuel.

While long-haul carriers have more of a challenge, O'Brien said. 
They will have to consider arrangements like technical stocks where they stop in other countries on the way to or from New Zealand. That means passenger services may take longer to counter in an additional stop.

"Making technical stops is not easy. You have to get regulatory approval, you have to arrange for ground handling services [and] you have to potentially position extra aircrew in that location," O'Brien said.

"So airlines are still very much working through those arrangements so they can be prepared for a shortage of fuel in New Zealand."

Z Energy has apologised to any passengers that may be affected by the supply hole.

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