Motorists are once again facing problems at the pumps.
Not only have petrol and diesel prices skyrocketed because of the war in Ukraine, but people in parts of Kent are now being hit by a double whammy as climate change campaigners barricade fuel depots limiting supply.
Many petrol stations in Kent are already dry and those with fuel are quickly emptied by panic-buying drivers.
Motorists in the Isle of Sheppey, Sittingbourne and Canterbury are all reporting difficulty finding fuel to fill their tanks.
Only one of three garages on the island was open yesterday (Thursday) afternoon after Tesco and Morrisons supermarkets ran out.
The BP garage in Queenborough Corner was still selling petrol but only top-of-the-range Ultimate diesel remained at 199.9 a litre.
Tesco, which sold petrol at 156.9pa liter and diesel at 168.9p, insisted it had been open ‘every day’ but admitted supplies had quickly run out with desperate drivers “filled to the brim”.
This morning motorists blocked Sheerness trying to enter the Bridge Road store after reports of a new tanker delivery leaked.
Alerts on Facebook meant there was a Morrisons rush at Neat’s Court shopping park, Queenborough, yesterday morning, leading to queues stretching to the roundabout on the A249 Brielle Way. By late afternoon, the supplies had dried up.
One man posted: ‘Lots of fuel off the island. It’s just the greedy idiots who only think of themselves, especially when there’s no shortage anywhere.’
Others have reported similar difficulties in Sittingbourne.
Paul Dennis said: “Yesterday my daughter tried seven petrol stations in Sheppey and Sittingbourne with no success.”
There were also shortages in Canterbury with one motorist trying five petrol stations without any joy.
One woman posted: “Morrisons told me the tankers need police escorts so it’s a slow process. We need to be patient and understanding of people who need diesel or petrol to keep going. do their jobs and go to schools or hospitals.”
Neil McLennan, who manages a fleet of nine taxis for Sheppey-based i-Cars, admitted: “It’s becoming a hassle. Normally we fill up when needed but the queues are becoming a nightmare.
“It would be nice if people just bought the fuel they needed, but our drivers are also seeing people filling canisters in the forecourts.”
He added: “Seems to be more of a problem on Sheppey and Sittingbourne. One of my drivers had no problem refueling at Gatwick and another found plenty of fuel at Medway. That may be because this area is served by the Tilbury depot which is affected.
“The problem is that as soon as a garage has petrol, the world and his wife descend on it. Sheerness was blocked this morning after delivering a tanker to Tesco.”
On Friday, the pressure group Just Stop Oil, an offshoot of Insulate Britain, and activists from Extinction Rebellion began demonstrating outside fuel depots.
Activists say they dug a network of tunnels at Navigator Oil terminals in Thurrock and Grays. Andrew Smith of Extinction Rebellion told The Times: “Right now, governments are choosing to exploit the crisis in Ukraine to hand out oil licenses and pursue the fossil fuel economy that is destroying us.”
Kent last grappled with fuel shortages six months ago at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, when a shortage of tanker drivers cut supplies.
An Essex Police spokesman said officers have been working around the clock since last week to deal with protests in Thurrock.
They added: “Today marks a week since the protests began. So far we have made 270 arrests in connection with the protests.
“Overnight our officers made two further arrests in the Thurrock area while early this morning a group of protesters arrived in London Road, Purfleet.
“We are currently making 65 additional arrests.”
Deputy Chief Constable Andy Prophet praised the commitment of the officers involved in the operation over the past seven days.
“Fuel transport has continued and there is no need for panic buying.”
He also said Essex Police were working closely with fuel companies and strongly encouraging them to step up their safety plans at each site.
He said: “Above all, I want to pay tribute to the officers who responded around the clock to these incidents.
“Their commitment allowed us to maintain a 24/7 presence in the region throughout the past week. This did not eliminate disturbances, but reduced them to a minimum.
“Fuel transportation has continued and there is no need for panic buying.
“It put real pressure on the force. One of the things I’m focusing on is what more oil companies can do to protect their infrastructure, perhaps using private security.
“If these measures are put in place, police services can deal with these incidents more quickly and further reduce the disruption caused.”
Monitoring the protests in Thurrock has cost Essex Police more than £1million so far.