Durban - If you live in Durban and drive a vehicle that runs on diesel, chances are that you’ve been left high and dry.

The Fuel Retailers’ Association confirmed on Thursday that “a sizeable number of complaints” were coming in from filling stations in the city.

“We have heard many reports of supply disruption, leading to fuel stations turning motorists away,” said its chief executive, Reggie Sibiya.

“We have found, from the feedback, that Durban and parts of Gauteng have been hit the hardest.”

Sibiya said the reason for the supply crunch was two-fold: the Engen refinery in south Durban had been shut down for routine maintenance and a fuel tanker from overseas, transporting the diesel to make up for the shortfall, had been delayed for reasons unknown.

“We don’t know how long this will affect motorists. The shutdown is planned for two months, and to address backlogs now, I estimate that it will take us a couple of weeks to get back to business as usual,” he said. “We will have to wait and see and wait for reports from our members.”

Engen spokesman Gavin Smith said the refinery had been shut down for scheduled maintenance.

“The shutdown commenced on July 30. Start-up is scheduled for September 4.”

He confirmed some of Engen’s service stations were experiencing sporadic shortages of diesel and petrol in the inland area as well as in Durban.

“This is due to a combination of factors, including shipping delays on imported products into Durban and constraints faced by coastal refineries. These challenges have impacted scheduled pipeline injections into the inland area for all grades of fuel, something that will affect all oil companies,” Smith said.

“We expect sporadic supply challenges over the next few weeks. This may see some of our service stations intermittently experiencing sporadic shortages of certain products.”

Smith said contingency plans had been put in place to mitigate against the shortages, including “rerouting of product from other areas”.

Meanwhile, service stations have begun putting up signs warning motorists of the lack of supply.

One motorist, Krishen Naicker, told the Daily News on Thursday he had gone to two Caltex garages in Chris Hani (North Coast) Road in the past two days, but could not fill up.

“I was told that they don’t have any (diesel) and that there was a problem with the depot.”

Courier companies and private bus operators said they had yet to feel the effects of the shortage.

Kevin Martin, chairman of the Harbour Carriers, a division of the SA Association for Freight Forwarders, said: “We are getting our deliveries and as far as I am aware, all our members have diesel.”

“From where I’m sitting it seems this is a routine shut down that happens every year for maintenance,” he said.

Andrew Layman, chief executive of the Durban Chamber of Commerce, said he had not been informed there was a problem.

He said even in crisis, suppliers would have reserve supplies.

Daily News