Haitians continued to search for gas Saturday as the Houston-based fuel reseller defended its decision to put five cargo ships filled with gasoline and diesel on “financial hold” in waters off Port-au-Prince.

Chris Scott, the chief financial officer of Novum, confirmed that the Bureau of Monetization of Programs and Development Aid, BMPAD, did make a partial payment, allowing the release of some fuel. But more than 60,000 barrels of gasoline and 260,000 barrels of diesel remain anchored off the Bay of Port-au-Prince, he said, as the company still awaits more than $35 million in overdue payments in order to discharge the pending volume. Neither Scott nor BMPAD director Ignace Saint-Fleur would say how much the government paid.

“We have made a lot of efforts to put certain amount of money … to unblock the fuel,” Saint-Fleur told the Herald on Thursday.

Under a presidential decree issued by Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in January 2018, BMPAD is the only agency in Haiti that can import fuel in Haiti. The country’s private sector in recent days has called on the government to end the monopoly and allow the half-dozen or so fuel distributors to order fuel on their own on the open market.

“Novum has been supplying fuels to Haiti via BMPAD for more than four years with a good track record of payments,” Scott said in a press release sent to the Miami Herald. “This has enabled us to progressively increase credit to BMPAD to more than $70 million with 45 days payment terms. In recent months, regretfully the payment performance of BMPAD has deteriorated significantly.”

Not only has Novum’s credit limit been breached on many occasions, Scott said, payments have been delayed by as much as 105 days. This has limited its ability to supply fuel to other Caribbean nations.

Haiti’s fuel shortage crisis began last month, creating long lines at gas stations around the country and a new level of tensions. On Friday, as Moïse attempted to launch a high school athletic tournament. he was heckled as the audience chanted, “We don’t have electricity” and had to be escorted out, in fear for his security. Local press also reported that four people died in the town of Laschobas during a protest over the electricity shortage. Continue reading

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