Papua New Guinea has locked in its aviation fuel supply for another month after the country's sole fuel supplier, Puma Energy, received approximately PGK257 million kina (USD73 million) in hard currency to cover another month's fuel supply for the country. Local airlines, including Air Niugini (PX, Port Moresby), were forced to suspend flights last week due to a fuel shortage.

Port Moresby's The National newspaper reports that the Bank of Papua New Guinea (BPNG), the country's central bank, has released PGK352 million (USD100 million) into the local market via commercial banks and foreign exchange dealers. Almost three quarters of that sum went to Puma Energy to keep the fuel flowing. Puma's PNG country manager, Hulala Tokome, told the newspaper that the USD73 million payment would cover PNG's fuel bill for one month.

After briefly suspending flights in early December, Air Niugini again paused its domestic services on January 5, saying Puma was having difficulties accessing US dollars and had stopped supplying Jet-A1 aviation fuel. However, supplies were soon restored and normal scheduled operations resumed on January 7. According to ch-aviation capacities data, Air Nuigini has a 76.86% domestic market share and presently offers over 5,000 seats a day across approximately 70 flights.

Meanwhile, PNG Prime Minister James Marape went to Singapore last weekend to meet with Puma executives. Puma Energy is Switzerland-based but majority owned by Singapore-based Trafigura. Marape says the strained business relationship between the central bank and Puma was becoming a national security issue and that the nation would "not be held to ransom." Marape said BPNG and Puma needed to sort out their differences, which includes a bank-initiated court case.

"I want to inform the country and business that today, the bank has the highest-ever level of foreign reserves (FX) of more than PNK13 billion (USD3.7 billion) – more than enough for a year," the PM said in a January 5 statement. "I, as prime minister, believe that businesses should be operating with ease, and when it comes to FX, they should be accessing FX."

Marape also added that he had talked to other fuel suppliers while in Singapore, name-checking Santos, ExxonMobil, Kumul Petroleum Holdings Ltd and Mineral Resources Development Company, with a view to ultimately breaking Puma's fuel monopoly hold over Papua New Guinea.