Thousands of passengers were stranded across Papua New Guinea as commercial airlines grounded planes after the country s sole supplier of finished petroleum products stopped providing jet fuel.
Puma Energy, the country's only fuel supplier, said the shortage of supply was due to a lack of foreign currency from the Central Bank of Papua New Guinea, which used to buy fuel on the international markets.
After all major airlines had cancelled their scheduled domestic flights earlier on Thursday, there was chaos at the country's main domestic airport in Port Moresby.
Hundreds of passengers were turned away from Jacksons International Airport in the capital city, prompting passengers to demand an intervention from prime minister James Marape.
Simdei Kamgu, who was supposed to be traveling to Kiunga, Western Province, said that our livelihood is being affected.
The prime minister and government didn't have a response.
Papua New Guinea's largest airline, Air Niugini, said on Wednesday that all flights around the country would be cancelled because Puma Energy had suspended the supply of Jet A 1 fuel to all airline companies.
Air Niugini said that we had done everything possible to make sure that this situation did not occur and that we could continue to support the people of Papua New Guinea especially as they return from their Christmas holiday. The airline can assure all of our customers that we are fully up to date with our payments to Puma Energy. Air Niugini warned that international flights could be cancelled if the country s central bank doesn't supply enough US dollars for the fuel supplier Puma Energy to buy jet fuel.
Air travel is the most efficient and reliable means of travel in Papua New Guinea due to the rugged terrain and lack of interconnecting roads. The two largest cities, Port Moresby and Lae, are only connected by plane.
The country has only two major highways linking it's interior highlands to the coast and three other highways linking smaller towns. There are no railroads and there are no shipping lines to transport cargo, but there are no options for people to travel far on the sea. Air Niugini and Air Niugini fly even more cargo by air.
A dispute between the Bank of Papua New Guinea and Puma Energy has affected the ability of the energy company to buy fuel.
The Bank of PNG hasn't commented on the foreign exchange situation.
It sends a worse message out of unreliability of services, both fuel and air services, which could potentially harm important industries and service, said Paul Barker of the country's Institute of National Affairs.
PNG businesses have been struggling for over a decade to get the US dollars needed to pay their suppliers.