Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport, the busiest airport in South Africa as well as the continent as a whole, has been going through jet fuel shortages. The jet fuel shortage has seen two airlines cancel 15 flights to the airport which has affected 3,250 passengers. The fuel shortages have been caused by the floods that occurred in late April in the country’s province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). The floods caused damage to the rail system that transports fuel and other goods from KZN to the province of Gauteng, where OR Tambo International Airport is located.
It is being reported that the system will be repaired and able to partially function at a 50% capacity by June 9th. The system is expected to be fully repaired by October 2022. According to reports, OR Tambo International Airport had fuel quantities that can only last for three days whereas the airport is normally required to carry a quantity that may last for up to five days.
The previously mentioned international airlines were forced to cancel some of their flights. One of the airlines canceled flights between April 24 and May 1st, canceling 14 flights and affecting the traveling plans of 3,150 people. The other airline canceled a single flight on April 24, affecting 100 passengers.
The fuel crisis at OR Tambo International Airport has seen flights forced to refuel at other airports. Some flights have restocked in Durban, the largest city in KwaZulu-Natal, while others have even had to go as far as Windhoek, Namibia to refuel. Harry Moultrie, a senior epidemiologist for the Center for Tuberculosis, tweeted that his flight from Johannesburg to Zurich had to be rerouted through Durban in order to refuel.
Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), which is responsible for operating the airports in the country, CEO Mpumi Mpofu emphasized that the other airports in the country did not have a fuel shortage problem. ACSA gave a briefing on Monday, May 9 detailing the issues at OR Tambo International Airport. “While overall stock levels are stable [at OR Tambo], certain suppliers impacted by a declared force majeure [due to flood impacts] are still unable to acquire the quantities of jet fuel they require. Airlines do not use the same fuel supplier, and as a result, not all are equally impacted,” explained Mpofu.
The Department of Minerals and Energy, along with the Central Energy Fund, announced that it would facilitate the provision of 1.5 million liters of jet fuel. According to reports, a consignment of jet fuel recently arrived at the Durban Harbor. This fuel is being pumped into the National Petroleum Refiners South Africa (NATREF) refinery, which is the only jet fuel refinery in the country. This fuel is projected to help ease the shortage crisis currently being experienced at OR Tambo International Airport as it can, and will, be piped there.