Monday, June 30, 2008
By Chiwoyu Sinyangwe
Monday June 30, 2008 [04:00]
THE emerging Zambian aviation industry will be crippled if nothing is done to mitigate negative effects of increases in prices of Jet A-1 fuel, Zambian Airways chief operating officer David Evans (left) has observed. In a statement released yesterday, Evans disclosed that BP Zambia Plc, the country's major supplier of aviation fuel, had increased the price of Jet A-1 fuel by about 50 per cent.
Evans called on the government to emulate other countries in the region by cushioning the impact of price hikes of Jet A-1 fuel on the local aviation sector.
"This fuel price increase is a body blow to the entire aviation industry in Zambia, and as its bigger user of fuel, to Zambian Airways in particular. All airlines have to live with soaring cost of fuel, but an increase of this magnitude is unprecedented," Evans stated. "In contrast, the same fuel supplier has announced an increase of six per cent for fuel supplies in South Africa in July. We are simply unable to understand the rationale behind such a swinging increase in Zambia. Since the beginning of our current financial year, aviation fuel costs in Zambia have increased by 100 per cent, nearly double those of our neighbouring countries.
"If nothing is done to mitigate the negative effects of these fuel costs, the emerging Zambian aviation industry will be crippled, if not totally decimated. We therefore call on the government to do everything possible, to do what other countries are doing, and to save this vital sector from total collapse.
"This is not a wolf's cry on our part, it is a real and serious challenge facing our aviation sector and the nation. The price of fuel threatens Zambian Airways, its huge workforce, its suppliers and the re-emerging aviation sector in general."
Evans further stated that the negative effects of high costs of local aviation fuel would not only harm Zambian Airways but also the nation's economy.
He said the growth Zambian Airways had scored had helped to spur economic growth in other sectors of the country's economy apart from the tourism industry alone.
"This comes at a time when Zambian Airways is enjoying unprecedented growth in its business and tourism travel, and it will be the travelling public who suffer increased costs especially with difficulties in some neighbouring countries, which render road transport unsafe." he stated. "If not addressed, this situation is a major threat to our national economy. It is bound to deliver a devastating blow to our tourism sector that had started to show very good growth.
"And it is not only tourism that has started to benefit from the revival of the Zambian aviation sector, agriculture and commerce are also being given a boost. Zambian Airways is everyday freighting huge quantities of fresh agricultural produce to South Africa and beyond. Commerce has been boosted with many of our neighbours including Tanzania and East Africa in general."
He also stated that it had taken the country 14 years to reverse the damage done to the Zambian aviation sector after the demise of the state-owned Zambia Airways. "During this period, we lost all aviation infrastructure including highly skilled and well-trained human resources - pilots, aircraft engineers, even experienced cabin and ground crew," stated Evans.
BP Zambia Plc managing director Cremion Mapfumba could not be reached for comment as he was said to be out of the country.
Both BP Zambia Plc company secretary Suzyo Ng'andu and Energy Regulations Board (ERB) communications officer Kwali Mfuni said they would make official statements on the matter this week.