Cocorite’s Unipet Service Station

SAD CHRISTMAS?: Cocorite’s Unipet Service Station, displays a “No gas” sign on their pump yesterday.

—Photo: JERMAINE CRUICKSHANK

A NUMBER of Unipet gas stations ran out of fuel yesterday after State company Paria Fuel Trading cut its supply on Tuesday for an outstanding $100 million bill.

Speaking in the Senate on Wednesday, acting Energy Minister Colm, Imbert said Unipet got product on a good-faith basis, but refused to sign an agreement.

“Unipet was given fuel in good faith by Paria, Unipet declined to pay for fuel and owed Paria $172 million as of a couple of weeks ago. Paria and Unipet met and Unipet agreed to make a part payment of $68 million. However it only made a payment of $64 million and it has still declined to sign any written arrangement with Paria. And it now owes Paria in excess of $100 million for fuel supplied without any written agreement,” Imbert said, adding that he would intervene to resolve the issue between Paria and Unipet.

Most Unipet stations the Express visited yesterday were out of super, diesel and premium fuels. “It’s ridiculous,” was the sentiment among workers at Peakes’ Service Station along the Western Main Road, Cocorite, yesterday as they worried about the bleak Christmas they faced if the situation was not resolved.

President of the Petroleum Dealers Association Robin Naraynsingh said as many as 600 workers could be affected by the fuel supply cut to Unipet. Unipet operates 24 stations around the country. It could not be confirmed how many had run out of fuel yesterday.

Ghost town station

The normally bustling Unipet outlet at Cocorite was like a “ghost town”, a motorist observed yesterday.

All its pumps were tagged with “No super, premium or diesel” signs.

A man was mowing the lawn at the entrance. Inside the Quick Shoppe, there was commercial activity. Efforts to speak to the manager proved futile.

As he filled his tank one driver said: “I am hoping the Unipet employees would not have a sad Christmas.”

At the St Christopher’s Service Station along Wrightson Road in Port of Spain (which is a National Petroleum station) attendant Evans Crichlow noted an upswing in customers.

“We always have a large volume of customers. But we have noticed a spike since the Unipet scenario. By 1 p.m., we had about 600 vehicles. We have super, premium, diesel and CNG.”

Chaguanas resident Nigel Layne said the Unipet situation was causing him “gross inconvenience.” He said: “I normally fill up at Brentwood, Edinburgh. They don’t have any super, diesel or premium. I have to find an NP station.”

At NP’s Maraval Road stations, there was a steady flow of motorists waiting to fill up.

NP operates 117 stations throughout the country.

Imbert said NP had the capacity to supply the country’s fuel needs.

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