Acting Energy Minister Colm Imbert is intervening in negotiations between Paria Fuel Trading Company and Unipet aiming to broker a speedy agreement between both in their current impasse.
He said Unipet currently owes Paria over $100 million for fuel supplied without any written agreement.
Speaking in the Senate yesterday, Imbert added, “NP has the capacity to supply fuel but I intend to intervene and see if I can get this matter resolved in the shortest possible time and get the parties back together so we can produce a proper agreement between Paria and Unipet going forward without any difficulties.”
Imbert was replying to queries from UNC Senator Wade Mark on the impasse between Paria and Unipet after Paria on Tuesday discontinued supplying Unipet with fuel.
Paria has stated this resulted from Paria’s failure to renegotiate a supply agreement since April and that Unipet defaulted on payments owed from September and October deliveries. Unipet accused Paria to be “pushing the market toward a monopoly situation.”
Petroleum Dealers’ Association president Robin Naraynsingh who said Paria’s move was “unfair and unjust” has called on Imbert and Government to intervene. He warned of threats to jobs resulting from the situation. Yesterday some motorists complained of fuel problems.
Imbert, replying to Mark’s concern about the impact, said, “This is an issue of non-payment for supply. It’s an issue of non-signatory of an agreement which has been in force for several months.
“As acting Energy Minister it’s my intention to intervene. However, we have to ensure that anybody who’d supplied with fuel that is paid for by taxpayers, pays their bills and pays them on time.”
Imbert said Paria which is the wholesale supplier of motoring fuels and Unipet is currently involved in negotiations “And it’s expected the impasse will be of short duration minimising any disruption to the motoring public.”
Saying there was no breakdown of negotiations, he added, “What happened was, when Paria was formed last year three was a short term written contract put in place with Unipet. That expired in March. Since then - April, May, June, July, August, September and October, the arrangement between Paria and Unipet has been by way of a monthly arrangement executed via letter on the same terms and previous arrangement - regarding credit and so on - signed between both sides.”
Imbert added, “Between April and October Unipet signed the letter and adhered to the credit terms for the supply of fuel which are, in the first instance, 45 days and then it goes to 55 days from the first supply of fuel,”
“In November, Paria sent the usual monthly letter to Unipet for its signature, Unipet declined to sign the letter and Unipet was given fuel in good faith by Paria. Unipet declined to pay for fuel and it owed Paria $172 million as of a couple weeks ago. Paria and Unipet met and Unipet agreed to make a part payment of $68 million, however, it only paid $64 million and it has still declined to sign any written agreement with Paria and it now owes Paria in excess of $100 million for fuel supplied without any written agreement.”
On the possible impact on motorists, Imbert said “I’m advised NP presently has a network of 117 operating service stations which are strategically located throughout the length and breadth of T&T.
“Unipet has 24 operating service stations which are primarily located in densely populated areas also served by NP service stations. I’m further advised that NP has the existing capacity and capability to meet the fuel requirements of the motoring public and additional resources have been put in place in terms of the supply and delivery of fuel at NP service stations to deal with any issues that arise.”
UNC’s Mark called for the issue to be debated as a matter of urgent national importance. He noted Unipet had several service stations and was an alternative source of fuel for thousands and potential closure would pose a significant inconvenience to motorists and the wider public - including creating a monopoly and joblessness. Senate President Christine Kangaloo said it didn’t qualify for debate under the regulation Mark had filed it.