Marchers will present petition to premier
Protesters who say they are “fed up” with high gas and diesel prices at the pump plan to hold a peaceful march through downtown George Town on Wednesday morning.
The march, to be led by about a dozen residents in a group named “Cayman is fed up with high gas prices,” will begin at the former government administration building, the Glass House, around 9 a.m. The group plans to walk through the town center to the Legislative Assembly building where it will present a petition demanding “government action” on fuel prices.
The petition, which at last count had collected close to 10,000 signatures of Caymanians and non-Caymanians, will be delivered to Premier Alden McLaughlin prior to the start of Wednesday’s assembly meeting.
Petition organizer George R. Ebanks said signatures were collected at supermarkets, public meetings and online over the past few weeks.
“[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 said not all of the signatories are registered voters, so the petition is unlikely to have any legal effect under the Cayman Islands Constitution Order (2009) in terms of forcing a referendum on the gas prices issue.
The government is expected to bring legislation during the current meeting 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.
According to the proposed Dangerous Substances Handling and Storage (Amendment) Bill, 2015: “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. The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service has advised that due to the march, Fort Street between the junctions with Albert Panton Street and Harbour Drive will be closed to traffic from 9 a.m. to noon. Traffic on Fort Street will be diverted near the Town Clock toward Mary Street and Edward Street.
Both in the summer of 2014 and during this summer, the Cayman Islands has witnessed a prolonged period of higher gas prices when compared to U.S. and world oil benchmarks. Local fuel distributors have explained the pricing lag is due to delays in fuel shipments to the islands that typically take three to four weeks.
The price drop, they argue, is not reflected “at the pump” until retail stations have used up all of their fuel purchased at the earlier, higher price.
According to records kept by the Cayman Islands Petroleum Inspectorate, the average price for a gallon of regular, full-service unleaded gasoline was $4.71 in early July 2015. By late August, the average from the inspectorate’s figures was $4.72 on Grand Cayman.
In the U.S., as of early July, the average price per gallon of regular unleaded was US$2.77. In late August, the American Automobile Association reported the national average at US$2.45. On Sept. 9, the average price of a gallon of regular, unleaded fuel in the U.S. was US$2.38.
Also, Brent crude oil prices per barrel – a key international benchmark for petroleum pricing – fell erratically, but sharply between early July and early September. Prices at Grand Cayman fuel stations did not start coming down until mid-September.