| COLOMBO, April 24
COLOMBO, April 24 Thousands of Sri Lankan
motorists were queuing for fuel on Monday after workers at the
state-run oil firm went on strike, demanding the government
scrap a deal which they say would give India too much influence
over fuel prices.
Unions said the strike was to stop a deal that puts 99 oil
tanks in the island nation's eastern port city in the hands of
Lanka IOC, a subsidiary of Indian Oil Corporation
Sri Lanka has agreed with India to jointly develop and
operate all oil tanks in the oil storage facility located in the
port town of Trincomalee near the world's second deepest natural
Union leaders said there was speculation the deal could be
finalised either when Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil
Wickremesinghe visits New Delhi on Tuesday or Indian Prime
Minister Narendra Modi comes to Sri Lanka on May 11.
Lanka IOC already operates 15 of the oil tanks; the rest
have not been used for decades.
For its part, IOC has agreed to build a second refinery with
a capacity of at least 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) in Sri
Lanka, while Modi in 2015 pledged to establish a petroleum hub
The unions at state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC)
said handing the tanks to Lanka IOC would give it too much
influence over fuel stations.
"If they are given, they will have the control to decide the
market prices," D. J. Rajakaruna, a CPC union leader told
A top CPC official said fuel stations could run out of
supplies later on Tuesday if the strike continued, though the
island nation's 50,000 barrel-per-day capacity refinery is still
"We have enough stocks, but we can't supply as workers in
the distribution unit have gone on strike," the official said,
asking not to be named.
State Enterprise Minister Kabir Hashim said the unions were
given false information, as India and Sri Lanka had agreed to
hand over 10 tanks to CPC while 74 were expected to be developed
under a joint venture between CPC and Lanka IOC.
"It will be signed between the governments of India and Sri
Lanka," he told reporters in Colombo.
A Lanka IOC official told Reuters that due to trade union
pressure CPC would be allowed to use 10 of the 84 tanks
earmarked for the joint venture between the two companies.
(Additional reporting by Nidhi Verma in New Delhi; Editing by