“It’s not a fuel shortage in itself, but we have a real bottleneck in Malahat.”
Long queues of cars ran from gas stations in Greater Victoria on Wednesday as the pumps began to run dry.
Difficulties in transporting gas across Malahat led to a shortage, said Erik Gault, executive director of Peninsula Co-doc, who asked motorists to stay out of the highway.
“It’s not a fuel shortage in itself,” he said, “but we have a real bottleneck in Malahat.”
All the gas companies are in the same boat, he said.
Leithan Slade of Suncor, who owns Petro-Canada, reiterated Gault when he said there is no shortage of gas on Vancouver Island, but the challenge is to get it over Malahat. “There are a few places in Victoria that have run out of fuel and we’re working to fill them as soon as possible.”
Vancouver Island stations are supplied with gas from five terminals north of Malahat. Shell has a tank farm in Bare Point near Chemainus, while Imperial Oil (Esso) and Suncor (Petro-Can) have terminals in Nanaimo. Parkland Fuel has terminals in Port Hardy and Hatch Point in Cobble Hill.
Normally, the Peninsula Co-op saw four to eight loads of fuel south each day, but none got through from Sunday to Tuesday due to the storm. Since then, only one or two trucks have traveled in Malahat every day.
The highway will be closed for repairs until Monday from 6 to 6 p.m., other times single-lane alternating traffic. “There’s just not enough space on the road and not enough hours a day,” Gault said, adding that it’s important that non-essential traffic stays out of the way for vehicles carrying food, fuel and other essential supplies to get through. “The more trucks we get through, the better we can.”
This is not a long-term shortcoming, he said. One who can wait a few days does not have to breathe.
Until then, however, it is a matter of replenishing the stations where possible, and fuel will be distributed between the sites.
On Fairfield Road at 1 p.m., a lineup of at least 50 cars from Fairfield Petro-Can meandered several blocks back in the westbound lane. Not all drivers wanted gas; Some just tried to get past the assembly, but the construction work along the street made it difficult for many to escape.
Mike Farnworth, a public safety minister and lawyer, said Wednesday that the province is working with distributors and hauliers to create new routes to get petrol and other goods where they are needed.
“We monitor and work very closely to ensure that fuels arrive where they are needed,” he said. “And it will be a very important priority for future work.”
BC Ferries said it will increase the round trip on Thursday to carry essentials and passengers between Duke Point and Swartz Bay. The Coastal Celebration, which can accommodate about 310 cars and 1,604 passengers, is used for sailing.