June 8, 2005 — As local residents were left yesterday without any explanation as to the closing of St. Thomas Texaco gas stations, many radio outlets have circulated rumors of a territory-wide fuel shortage, claiming that island Texacos may continue to be out of operation for the next two weeks.
"Nobody knows when they are getting gas," said Ali Abu Soud, owner of Friendlys Gas Station on the North side. He added, "Everybodys saying different stories without knowing whats going on."
Abu Soud, who left his Texaco station last night in order to find out about the gas shortage, said that he has been out of regular gasoline for four days and has only received 1,000 gallons of gas since.
"I am the only station here on the North side," Abu Soud said, "and some people are getting stuck because they cant fuel their cars." Abu Soud also noted that he's been limiting the amount of his gas sales as a way of serving as many customers as possible. "Ive been trying to put out $5 or $7, little amounts, just so I can continue to provide service to the community."
Winthrop Maduro, Texacos local marketing business consultant, responded to speculation by stating that the company, which has been "actively pursuing fuel with Hovensa, is experiencing a momentary interruption and has temporarily ceased service to the community."
When asked when the situation would be resolved, Maduro was vague, stating that Texaco will be fully operational as soon as possible and that the Hovensa refinery seems to be functioning well. However, he cautioned that that there are a large number of vessels already at Hovensa to receiving fuel.
Maduro added that Texaco ships have been at Hovensa since the middle of May and that the company is presently investigating the issue.
Alexander Moorhead, Hovensas vice president of government affairs and community relations, did confirm that Texaco vessels were scheduled to be at the refinery on May 19 but noted that Texaco's carriers did not show up at the appointed times.
"When there is a sale made," Moorhead explained, "the purchasers are given loading days for their vessels to receive fuel. These ships were supposed to be there on the 19th and 21st of May, but they didnt come, and in the interim, another vessel took its place. They were given other loading days and didnt come for those either. They have to be here on time."
Moorhead added that when ships do not arrive on schedule, Hovensa has to honor their other fueling commitments, and that the matter particular to St. Thomas and Texaco will be "handled as quickly as possible."
"In situations or emergencies such as these," Abu Soud said, "it would be in the best interest of the V.I. if the government had a backup plan. Can you imagine what would happen if St. Thomas went without gas for two weeks? It would be terrible — nothing would be able to function."
Maduro said Texaco will issue a press release shortly to address the current station closures and the interruption in the company's fuel supply.
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