Petitioners claim 5,000+ signatures
Prices at the pump fell by about 20 cents per gallon at many Sol Petroleum-supplied stations on Monday and Tuesday as declining worldwide petroleum prices trickled down to the Cayman Islands.
Some George Town Sol stations saw prices fall to $4.44 per gallon for regular, self-serve unleaded by Tuesday, while Rubis-supplied stations were averaging around $4.32 per gallon, according to figures from the Cayman Islands Petroleum Inspectorate.
Prior to Monday, there was about a 30-35 cent per gallon price difference between the two companies at the Grand Cayman stations, which Sol officials said was largely due to the difference in timing of fuel delivery to the islands. Earlier shipments received at higher prices would have to be exhausted prior to retail pump prices declining, petroleum officials said.
“Sol does not set the price at the pump, the dealers do, but I would expect that as the stations use up their existing inventory they will reflect the reduced cost in pump pricing,” Sol’s Alan Neesome said Tuesday.
The price difference between the two suppliers remained at more than 10 cents per gallon as of Tuesday.
“Prices … will vary as that is the nature of a free market and competition,” Mr. Neesome said. “Esso [Sol] service station diesel pump prices, for instance, have been consistently 10 or 11 cents a gallon below the average of the market for the past several weeks.”
The past two weeks have marked the first significant drop in Cayman Islands gas prices since early July, around the time when corresponding prices in the U.S. and in per barrel prices for world benchmark fuels began a sharp decline. The U.S. national average price per gallon had stabilized at about US$2.28 per gallon over the past week, according to figures compiled by the American Automobile Association.
Brent crude oil prices per barrel stood at US$48.45 Tuesday, about 20 cents higher than in the beginning of September.
A local furor over the price of gasoline sparked a petition drive seen all over the Cayman Islands this past weekend, led by a committee proclaiming “Cayman is fed up with high gas prices.”
Petitioners are demanding that the government take action to reduce local retail fuel prices.
Petition organizer George R. Ebanks said more than 5,000 signatures were received in collection efforts at local supermarkets, public meetings and online.
“[We] support the government promising to bring wide, sweeping legislation in October to the Legislative Assembly to obtain cost prices from both Sol Petroleum and Rubis,” Mr. Ebanks said. “This will then enable the government via the petroleum inspectorate to pressure the fuel importers to sell their fuel at market driven fuel prices to the various retail outlets.”
Mr. Ebanks acknowledged that not all of the signers were registered voters, so the petition, at least at the moment, would not have any legal effect in terms of forcing a referendum on the gas prices issue.
The government could bring legislation as early as mid-October to address some of the petitioners’ concerns. Proposed changes to Cayman’s laws governing the handling or storage of dangerous substances would require all fuel importers to provide detailed information on their operating costs to government’s regulatory agency, if they are approved by legislators.
According to the Dangerous Substances Handling and Storage (Amendment) Bill, 2015, as proposed: “The chief petroleum inspector shall … collect from importers, and compile, analyze and abstract, information on fuel prices and pricing methods and provide such information to the minister.” At the request of the petroleum inspector, the importer is required to provide information on the price of all fuel imported and sold and the “pricing methods” used by the importer in the sale of fuel to [retail] operators and consumers. Those costs can include: initial costs, cost of freight, insurance and brokerage fees, customs duties, estimates of fuel in stock, and the amount and type of fuel to be imported in the next shipment.
The legislation proposes a $20,000 fine or imprisonment for one year, or both, for anyone who fails to provide information or who provides false information to the government inspector.