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Fuel Crisis on St. John Impacts St. Thomas

Feb. 12, 2009 – E&C gas station on St. John ran out of regular fuel on Wednesday and may be out of premium by Friday, manager Myrtle Barry said Thursday.
"Hovensa won't sell us enough fuel," Barry said.
While this is causing a crisis on St. John where E&C is one of only two gas stations, St. Thomas gas stations are also impacted because Boynes Trucking can't get enough fuel from Hovensa to supply its St. Thomas customers.
In addition to trucking fuel for E&C, which has its own Hovensa account, Boynes is the distributor for hotels, car rental companies, ferry companies, various St. Thomas industries, and the University of the Virgin Islands.
"There are so many," Boynes Trucking Secretary/Treasurer Joanna Boynes said.
On Thursday, she said Boynes sold its last bit of regular fuel to a car rental company. She said Boynes had 4,000 gallons of diesel left to sell.
After an initial interview, Hovensa spokesman Alex Moorhead called back later to say that he's made arrangements with Boynes to "start loading" fuel Friday, provided Boynes gets his payment in before then.
Earlier, he said that Hovensa had worked out a deal with an affiliate of Boynes for 10 trucks a week to be picked up on Saturday.
James Boynes said demand has increased, so he now needs more fuel. He said he was at a loss to understand why when he was getting sufficient fuel, the situation changed.
"Let's come to a happy medium, but obviously it's going to be more than one trip a week," James Boynes said.
Boynes has 10 fuel trucks that the company takes on a barge to Hovensa's St. Croix facility to pick up fuel for the St. Thomas customers and E&C.
Company President James Boynes said that it takes 400,000 to 500,000 gallons a week to supply the St. Thomas customers.
Until this week, Boynes was able to keep up with demand, but James Boynes said that this week, Hovensa started limiting the days he can pick up fuel to Saturdays only.
"But gas stations cannot make it from Saturday to Saturday," he said.
According to James Boynes, the issue seemed to arise because St. Croix truckers were bothered that they had to wait in line for Boynes trucks to be filled.
"They started making calls," Boynes said.
Once Boynes tried taking all 10 of his trucks on the barge, but sending only two at a time to fill up at Hovensa. He said there was no problem and no complaints from St. Croix truckers.
Another time Boynes went on an unscheduled day, but said Hovensa knew he was coming because he has to pay for the fuel a day in advance. While he's willing to schedule his trips, he said that his customers don't always know when they'll run low on fuel.
Last year, Barry streamlined operations to keep fuel costs lower. She hires Boynes, which takes fuel trucks to St. Croix on barges and returns with the fuel.
Barry won't buy from other suppliers because the price is too high, she said.
In the slower seasons, one trip a week is sufficient, but Barry said during the winter season, one trip doesn't meet the need.
The problem couldn't have come at a worse time. St. John, despite the poor economy, still is busy. In addition to the needs of residents, tourists need to buy fuel for their rental cars.
"Tourists buy regular. They're upset," Barry said.
Albert Willis, who owns St. John Car Rental, said so far he hasn't had any complaints from customers, but if the fuel shortage continues, it will have an impact.
"That will be terrible," he said.
And with E&C, located in Cruz Bay, out of fuel, drivers will have to drive to Coral Bay to buy gas at the island's only other gas station, a Domino.
"Who's going to leave Cruz Bay to go to Coral Bay when they're on E?" St. John Administrator Leona Smith asked, noting that she was unaware of the situation.

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