Petrol supplies must be assured in both reserve and type regardless of circumstance or great difficulty, according to the Government's direction.

"Any enterprises which don't conform to the regulation must face the responsibility. We will take drastic measures to assure this as we are resolved to deal with violating parties," Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Cam Tu said at a meeting with key petrol enterprises on March 12.

Tu announced that the Vietnam National Shipping Lines Co (Vinalines) will be fined for having made an insignificant contribution as it neither imported nor bought petrol from the Dung Quat oil refinery in the first two months of this year and for many months last year.

The ministry will withdraw the rights and quota allocated to the company for importing gasoline and 0.05S diesel to be supplied to the Vietnamese market, permitting it to import only 0.25S diesel and fuel oil with specific quotas to serve its shipping operation.

The withdrawn quota will be assigned for some other companies to assure general supplies.

The ministry will also ask the General Department of Customs to supervise Vinalines and will make future decision depending on its performance during the remainder of the year, he said.

According to the ministry's department of imports and exports, the total petrol import volume of key enterprises in the first two months declined sharply by 44 percent over the same period last year and reached only 10 percent of the total quota for this year. The situation was due to difficult business conditions and lower consumption.

Specifically, gasoline dropped 15 percent and diesel fell by 57 percent.

Volumes purchased from the Dung Quat oil refinery over the past two months increased 17.6 percent year-on-year.

The department's deputy director Luong Anh Quynh said that despite the sharp decrease, total supplies can still meet local demand during the period due to slowed domestic production, lower domestic petrol prices, authorities' efforts to prevent illegal petrol export through borders, and significant inventory levels.

On March 1, the stock of gasoline and diesel increased 31 percent and 5 percent, respectively, over the same period last year.

Tu said the domestic petrol market is expected to see even more challenges as world petrol prices are showing a clear uptrend, driven by disadvantageous global factors.

Enterprises must be prepared for an extremely hard time with forecasts anticipating world petrol prices reaching as high as 200 USD per barrel by the end of this year, he warned.

At present, he said, measures to stabilise prices reached their limit, especially when price stabilisation funds are exhausted and dipped into negative numbers at certain companies. The only possible solution by raising petrol prices was under heavy pressure from the market.

No solutions has been decided on for management affair problems, such as importers' losses, commissions for dealers or foreign exchanges for petrol import, he added.

While noting the importance of assuring import sources in the coming time, Tu said the ministry will direct market management forces to closely inspect petrol retailing systems and treat violation cases publicly.

"Tightened control of agents' retailing systems will affect key enterprises, thus they need to select qualified and prestigious agents," he added.-VNA