Air Niugini (PX, Port Moresby) has secured jet fuel supplies as ongoing fuel insecurity threatens the airline's ability to maintain its schedules. A February 28 announcement from the carrier came on the same day as a Port Moresby judge lifted a court order that compelled the country's only supplier of jet fuel, Puma Energy, to maintain "maximum supply" to the airline.

The judge lifted the order after Air Niugini failed to make a PGK3 million kina (USD795,000) payment per the terms of the existing fuel supply agreement.

"In response to ongoing disruptions to jet fuel supply, the Air Niugini board and management have taken the unprecedented step of purchasing bulk jet fuel stock to support Air Niugini's scheduled services in the short term," the airline's statement reads.

"This decision comes as the supply of current jet fuel was running low, which has adversely affected the airline's ability to operate some flights as scheduled. Air Niugini's jet fuel has now been successfully delivered to Port Moresby storage facilities, ensuring the continuity of scheduled services from the capital city."

However, the airline said no regional-centre jet fuel delivery solution was in place. Air Niugini has several fuel contracts with Puma, including one signed in 2021 that covered fuel supplies to Madang, Lae Nadzab, Hoskins, Mount Hagen, Buka, Tabubil, Kiunga, Kavieng, and Wewak. A separate contract with Puma covers fuel supply at Moresby's Jackson International Airport.

Papua New Guinea is experiencing significant and long-running fuel supply issues. A hard currency shortage and foreign exchange restrictions are hampering Puma's ability to stabilise supply, creating nationwide shortages. Previous attempts by the government to resolve the problem have failed. In mid-February, the fuel supplier said it would scale back its operations in Papua New Guinea to better align with the capacity of local banks to meet its foreign exchange requirements. It warned that its available jet fuel supplies could run out by the end of this week. It also said the court order requiring it to supply Air Niugini had exacerbated the problem.

“Unfortunately, due to the court order forcing Puma Energy to maintain maximum supply of jet fuel to Air Niugini, our existing supply has depleted significantly quicker than would have been expected had we been able to ration our remaining stocks until replacement supplies were secured," a statement from the supplier said.

The order, issued by Chief Justice Sir Gibbs Salika on January 26, was designed to ensure supply while the two parties mediated on a long-running contractual dispute that centres on supply and payment issues. This week, the National Court's Judge John Carey lifted the order after Air Niugini failed to meet a deadline to make the PGK3 million payment, covering around nine days of jet fuel. Wilson Mininga, appearing for Air Niugini in the court on February 28, said the money was "likely" to be paid this week. However, that was not enough to persuade Carey to keep the order in place. Earlier this year, Air Niugini said it was completely up to date with its payments to Puma.

Air Niugini says it will store and transport its freshly acquired fuel in line with IATA requirements. "[The airline] will continue to manage its fuel requirements for the foreseeable future whilst working to establish a permanent, capable, and appropriate aviation fuel supply contract," its statement said.