Fueling the Island
A growing Number of Fuel Stations Keep Island’s Vehicles and Boats Running

January 11th, 2012
by Thomas Tomczyk

[private]

Coxen Hole’s Petrosun fuel attendant fills a motorcycle tank

Coxen Hole’s Petrosun fuel attendant fills a motorcycle tank

The Bay Islands run on diesel and gasoline. That has been the case since the first generators began providing power to homes, the first cars were shipped, and the first boats started navigating between the coast and the islands.

Going from three to seven, the number of gasoline stations on Roatan has almost doubled in the last three years. But the gasoline stations are barely keeping up with the booming car imports to the island. There is Petrosun in Coxen Hole and in French Harbour, Texaco and Bay Islands Petroleum in Los Fuertes, Puma in Oak Ridge, Woodies in West End. Then there are several convenience sellers who will sell you a couple of liters if you get stuck in Jonesville or Diamond Rock.

“You never get rich off it, but you make a living,” says Albert Jackson, founder of the island’s first petrol station. In 1962 Jackson opened the first fuel pump station located in his marina, Agua Azul in French Harbour. Initially a place to get gas for island boats, it soon had a few motorcycles and cars driving up to fill their tanks as well. Until then fuel was sold in barrels and bottles, a tradition still carried on in some places today.

In 1988 Jackson opened Texaco, the first gasoline station catering to land vehicles. Within a couple years two petrol pump stations followed suit in Coxen Hole: Casa Warren petrol station and Compa Galindo station by the Thicket Mouth bridge.

Misael Nunez Castillo, Petrosun’s station manager since 2007, estimates that around 60% of Petrosun gasoline is sold to taxis, some coming in two to three times a day, not spending more than Lps. 100 or 150 at a time. “We estimate that we get 280 taxis in a 16-hour [work] day,” says Castillo, who estimates that the business has grown at around 7% a year and most of the sales come from gasoline sales, not diesel.

Prices for each week are posted each Sunday evening on Honduras’ Commision Administritava de Petrol’s website. Due to extra transport costs the fuel in the Bay Islands is roughly 8-10 Lps higher than on the mainland. In December 88 Octane gasoline sold for Lps. 89.30 per gallon and 94 Octane for Lps. 94.58.

In May 2011 the newest entry in the petrol station business was Bay Islands Petroleum in Los Fuertes. The station’s young owner, Kenny McNab, got to learn the maze of permits needed to start a petrol station and become a fuel importer. One needs an environmental permit from SERNA, a building and operating permit from SOPTRAVI, and municipal building and operating permits. “The hardest thing was getting the Soptravi operating permit,” said McNab, who said that much of the two years it took to open the business was spent organizing permits. The station also has to be associated with the Honduran Administrative Fuel Commission.

Petrol is a business big on customer loyalty. Many drivers choose one gasoline station they trust and then stick to it. “Our motto is quality and [accurate] quantity,” says McNab. “With 500 taxis putting around Lps. 400 a day, they are our biggest clients.” Bay Islands Petroleum is the first station to operate 24/7 on the island and it is the only station that displays the octane content of their fuel: “regular” 88 and “super” of 94.

Three petrol providers operate in Honduras: Hondupetrol, PUMA and Texaco. Getting the fuel to the island isn’t easy, especially in bad weather. Keeping it clean is another challenge.

At Bay Islands Petroleum every fuel shipment by Hondupetrol is checked with a hydrometer to verify if the transported fuel has any liquids other than gasoline. “We had someone adding kerosene to the tank in between Puerto Cortez and La Ceiba, but that has finished,” says McNab who had the polluted fuel returned to Hondupetrol at their expense.

According to Petrosun’s Castillo, about once a month the station will receive a fuel shipment contaminated with water. “We let the fuel sit. We test it several times and if there is water we drain it from the bottom,” explained Castillo. [/private]

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