Fuel Crisis in Papua New Guinea – 24 May Update

Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) in Papua New Guinea (PNG) – like every other air service operator in the country – continues facing Jet A1 (aviation fuel) supply issues, posing a significant challenge to our ability to serve remote communities to the extent and reliability as we did before. MAF’s operation is mostly affected by the shortage of Jet A1 that is supplied in drums.

Nevertheless, MAF has still been able to help many remote communities with its air services, ensuring transport of personnel and delivering supplies, e.g. to schoolteachers and health workers as appreciated by Erick Yakz, Board of Management, Tekin Primary School.

“No other airlines were willing to provide such service at this very point of the country’s fuel crisis time, but only MAF have done this to hear our cry of help,” Mr Yakz said.

The continuation of MAF’s flights saved the school from being closed for weeks and children missing out on education as you can read in more detail in this story. MAF lifeline keeps isolated school open | Papua New Guinea (mafint.org)

In recent weeks, refuelling of our aircraft by Puma’s fuel trucks at our MAF bases located at major provincial airports, e.g. Mt Hagen, Wewak, Madang, Kiunga and others, have been reasonably reliable with MAF being recognised as a valuable air operator serving the remote communities.

However, the overall Jet A1 supply distributed by Puma does not seem sufficient for the country’s aviation industry demand. As a result, Puma can’t reliably supply drum fuel as they prioritise bulk fuel supplies.

Back in March, MAF initiated efforts to secure alternative fuel sources. The most viable option was to purchase fuel drums from New Zealand, but this was still at double the cost of local prices.

This posed another challenge to MAF operations in PNG, resulting in the implementation of a fuel surcharge on top of our normal seat fares and charter prices by mid-March 2024.

Paul Kaia, MAF PNG’s Fuel Coordinator, just returned from travels to Port Moresby and Lae where he was overseeing the arrival of three New Zealand drum fuel containers. He was working on the logistics to deploy them to the various MAF locations requiring drum fuel. Even at our major bases MAF keeps drum fuel as back-up.

“I oversee the arrival in the ports, deal with the paperwork and then arrange for further transportation. One container of 80 drums was sent straight to Kiunga via barge. From Lae, 40 drums were shipped by vessel to Wewak, the rest was driven up the Highlands’ highway to be distributed between Goroka (40), Mt Hagen (40) and Tari (40),” Paul said.

Until now, 11 containers containing 80 drums of Jet A1 fuel each have been ordered.

“At the moment, New Zealand drum fuel supply is more reliable than the Puma drum supplies and will allow us to keep flying in the remote areas. If we would not have ordered in time, we would not have been able to keep flying in places like Telefomin or Balimo and serving the communities there.”

This week, MAF received news that Puma fuel orders for both Jet A1 Bulk Tank ex Goroka and drums stock ex Port Moresby and Lae are on hold until 10 June 2024.

“Puma is awaiting a new shipment of aviation fuel arriving from overseas to Port Moresby’s Napa Napa refinery for processing. After processing, the fuel will be diverted to Lae’s Puma facility to store and supply its customers in Momase and Highlands Region. Fuel supply may only resume by the 10th June” Paul said.

While confident in its response, MAF in PNG requests prayers for a sustainable resolution to the crisis. Prayers are still appreciated for a fast and sustainable resolution to the country’s fuel challenges, for the people of PNG affected by it, particularly for those in the remote communities who rely on MAF’s air service.

THANK YOU to all the donors in Australia who contributed to the PNG Fuel Crisis Appeal. Together, you have raised enough funds to cover 75% of the additional costs incurred from sourcing fuel drums from New Zealand instead of locally. DONATE HERE to help us reach 100%.

Read more real stories here