Locals and tourists in remote Cocos Islands exasperated by current fuel crisis


Residents and tourists of a remote Australian archipelago say they are frustrated after the islands ran out of fuel more than a month ago.

On December 16, the community of Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the Indian Ocean was notified that the islands were running out of unleaded gasoline.

The islands are 2,750 km north of Perth.

The popular tourist destination is expected to receive a fuel delivery on January 29.

Activities such as snorkeling, boating, fishing, diving trips, and car rentals depend on unleaded gasoline.

Kylie James is owner and operator of Cocos Island Adventure Tours and said the fuel crisis was frustrating.

“Tourists have been booking for a long time expecting to come to the island, rent their car, go on a motorized canoe trip, go on a fishing charter,” she said.

She said while some tourists were frustrated, most understood it was out of their control.

While the neighboring territory of Christmas Island has a diverse economy with phosphate mining and government industries employing the majority of its residents, the economy of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands is almost entirely dependent on tourism.

The Cocos (Keeling) Islands have become a popular tourist destination for Western Australians. (Provided: Cocos Islands Adventure Tours)

What caused the fuel shortage?

Viva Energy is responsible for delivering fuel to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

The company said a series of unfortunate events led to the fuel shortage.

“Issues that led to the stockout include urgent and unexpected maintenance of the tanks used to supply fuel to the island,” they said.

As a result, only one of the two tanks was available for pre-Christmas fuel delivery to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

A Viva Energy spokesman said a review of the unleaded fuel stock in late November showed there was sufficient fuel on the island and they expected the stock to last. until the end of December.

A fuel delivery was scheduled for December 28 but was delayed a month.

The company said issues that caused the delay include congestion at the port of Fremantle and weather conditions.

“This is a very unusual situation,” the company said.

“Viva Energy has taken concrete steps to investigate the issue and plans to hold additional emergency stock on the island.”

The volume of fuel to be delivered has also been increased.

A canoe on a beach
Kylie James of Cocos Island Adventure Tour says the fuel crisis has been frustrating for tourists.(Provided: RM Photography)

Staggering situation

Kaylene Krause, a local accommodation provider, said she heard many guests say they were disappointed with the fuel shortage, having paid big bucks to get to tropical islands.

“Going to the Cocos Keeling Islands and then having their rental car canceled or their boat trip canceled…and the only other way to get around the island is by bicycle,” she said.

According to a 2020 review of tourism on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, 547 people live on the island, with around 2,500 people visiting the island each year.

A fuel shortage is not the only problem the island is facing with freighters carrying non-perishable goods delayed, flight cancellations and Australia Post express mail taking up to five weeks for delivery.

“It’s really amazing, especially that Christmas Island gets so much more service on their island,” Ms Krause said.

Fi Barker recently visited the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island with family and friends.

She said the island was heavenly.

The reason the family visited the Cocos (Keeling) Islands was the dream of catching a valuable fish.

“Part of the reason to go to both islands is the dogtooth tuna; it’s the ultimate pinnacle for a freediver,” Ms Barker said.

“You have to regularly dive to 30 meters; so you must be a very competent freediver. »

A month before their trip, they tried to rent a boat.

“We spoke to many different vendors on the island and they all said, ‘Sorry we’re not operating’ or ‘I actually left the island because I can’t run my business because we we’re out of fuel,'” she said.

The family got creative in trying to get out on a boat and scrounge up fuel.

She said she would visit the island again and try to catch a dogtooth tuna.

The community works together

Ms James said one of the biggest things to come out of the fuel crisis was the community coming together.

“We’ve had people come out of the carpentry with little bits of fuel that they had that they were able to spare, and they said, ‘It’s to do one of your canoe trips’ , ” she said.

With diesel-powered cars still able to run, the community ferried guests around the island.

“While it was an inconvenience, the people on the island have really tried to mitigate it by providing more services so people can get around better,” Ms James said.


Comments are closed.