Privately owned Unipet wants its own fuel importation license, so it can by-pass the State-run Paria Fuel Trading Company.
In a 38-page signed affidavit received by Guardian Media, Unipet’s chief executive officer Dexter Riley, detailed the reasons for the request.
Riley said that if supply was not restored by December 6, Unipet would suffer “irreparable harm” which would impact some 600 employees.
To date, all 24 Unipet filling stations remained closed and without supply.
Unipet serviced 30 per cent of the market, while NP serviced the other 70 per cent, however with the requested deadline date already passed, it means that the 24 Unipet stations will remain closed until the promised intervention by acting Minister of Energy, Colm Imbert.
Until that intervention, the motoring public should brace for shuttered Unipet stations and longer lines at the NP service stations.
He also alleged that only when Petrotrin closed down in 2018, that the Government paid off the outstanding “hundreds of millions” owed to Unipet.
“A solution to this dilemma can be for Unipet to have a licence from the minister to import fuel for the public good in times when Paria cannot intentionally or unintentionally supply,” Riley said.
Riley also contends that it is obvious that Paria gives preferential treatment to National Petroleum, another company owned by the State and Unipet’s only competitor.
The Unipet CEO also said that it has commercial customers in the energy exploration field and it cannot supply to them because it does not have a bunkering licence.
“NP has one,” Riley said.
Riley said when Unipet applied for one, they were told that the Ministry of Energy was not issuing bunkering licences.
“NP therefore has the competitive edge,” he said.
“Despite NP’s substantial indebtedness, supply has never been terminated. Moreover NP is in receipt of substantial Grant’s from the GORTT (Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago),” Riley said.
Paria, Riley said, operates a monopoly over the sale and distribution of fuel and therefore had the capacity to affect all consumers in T&T.
Riley also said that Paria charges Unipet some $2,000 per hour in overtime whenever Unipet has to receive fuel outside of working hours.
According to Riley, Paria only operates during “normal working hours” which are also the “inefficient operating hours of the gantry”.
Paria, according to Riley, changed the company’s credit terms in May 2019 and instead of payment due on the 25th if every month, it was now due on the 10th day of every month and all credit was expected to be paid up, including the subsidy payment, which would later be paid back to Unipet.
The company is also citing a Government imposed 200 per cent increase in taxation which “resulted in the near collapse of the petroleum market in or around 2016”.
Riley said that both NP and Unipet suffered losses after that increase in taxes, but NP has Governmental support and financing.
The private company is also bound by an agreement to only purchase liquid petroleum fuels from the refinery “or other entity approved by the minister”.
“The sole entity this far that has been approved by the Honourable Minister is Paria,” Riley said.
Unipet’s 24 filling stations have been running out of fuel since Tuesday. As of Saturday, all stations were shut down.
Unipet also supplies commercial energy companies.
“Many of Unipet’s commercial customers want a guarantee that Unipet will he able supply product, it has been unable to bid for contracts as it is unable to provide this guarantee,” Riley said.
Unipet has been forced to delay payments to Paria Fuel Trading Company because of the “persistent delays” by the Government and the Minister of Finance in paying the gas subsidy.
Riley said it was unfair to expect Unipet to look for a loan to pay off the millions owed to Paria, especially as the State has “habitually failed” to pay its subsidy on time.
Unipet’s chief executive officer, Dexter Riley, in a signed affidavit which forms part of the private company’s lawsuit, said that under Petrotrin and now under Paria, the private company never received its subsidy payment on time.
Riley said that because of all those financial hits, it became dependent on the payment of the subsidy to pay for Petroleum products.
Paria chairman Newman George is not disputing the millions owed to Unipet by the State, but says “that has nothing to do with Paria.”
“I keep saying that Unipet must pay for products received,” George told Guardian Media.