In the black: customs documents expose Maldives’ chronic oil addiction

The 15 percent increase in oil prices over the past five months has led to the Maldives spending almost US$100,000 more on fossil fuels, per day.

Customs figures obtained by Minivan News reveal the true extent of the country’s chronic addiction to fossil fuels, and extraordinary vulnerability to even minor price rises.

In 2010, the Maldives spent over US$245 million on fuel (including marine diesel, aviation gas, propane and petrol) – disturbingly, almost a quarter of the country’s US$1 billion GDP.

The vast proportion (US$200 million) of the country’s fuel spend was on marine diesel. Petrol accounted for US$24 million, liquefied propane US$10 million, and aviation fuel US$12 million.

This represents a daily expenditure of US$670,000 to meet the country’s fuel needs, approximately US$800 per person per year in a country where the average annual income is under US$5000.

Oil is currently US$86 a barrel after trending a 15 percent increase over the past five months, which shows no sign of slowing. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), together with other analysts, have confidently tipped that oil will reach an average $90 a barrel in 2011, and potentially top US$100.

The figures also reveal that the Maldives is highly dependent on several countries for most of its fuel – Singapore (for aviation fuel), the UAE (petrol) and the Bahamas (marine diesel).

The revelation of the extent of marine fuel consumed in the country – over 2 million barrels annually – is one that President Nasheed’s Energy Advisor Mike Mason suggests is a strong argument for a return to sailing.

“I think there is a huge opportunity to take a knowledge of sail, wind and current – the thinking that has served the Maldives well for 2000 years – and apply modern technology such as solar to create a new transport paradigm. A sailing vessel with a modern hull, utilising modern technology can reach 30-40 knots, and would greatly reduce the reliance on diesel.”


9 thoughts on “In the black: customs documents expose Maldives’ chronic oil addiction”

  1. I just don't see anyone in this country returning to the sail. They've gotten too used to the diesel engine.

    Of course, if price goes on rising, it will become unaffordabe fairly soon. Then they'll all go on the streets demanding the government pay them fuel subsidies! In turn, the government will have to borrow even more money, just to spend on marine diesel!

  2. good piece

    A number of interesting conclusions from this - but ultimately we have to see where the marine diesel is used for.

    Is it for the fisheries industry? If so, can we really keep subsidizing the fisheries industry with this? The need for aquaculture is then even bigger - (assuming this can be done without fishermen going out to fish).

    The second issue is whether it goes on inter-island movement of goods and people. If so the old (but unpopular) idea of resettlement to larger islands need to be dusted out.

  3. oil is obsolete. has been for a long time.
    the only reason it is still being used is for Profit.
    not for earth's sustainability or as an efficient mean of energy.

  4. Maldives is also exporting diesel to Bangladesh. Besides, with more ships visiting our harbours and more airplanes landing here, we have to sell fuel to them. This is business.

  5. First we need to cure the addicts in our government before we can do anything about oil addiction.

  6. JJR, good piece and advice, but:

    We have become too lazy to go back to return to sails.

    The modern hulls you mention can become too expensive for the poorer who really need to economize. The elite for sure can afford, but no need to!

    Personal opinion is that a solution for this is hard to find at this stage.

  7. Nothing new here except going back to sailing. Oil import figures have been released by the government on a number of occassions. We have to be practical about sailing as the primary mode of sea transport.


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