(EnergyAsia, Feb 28) — Thai fishermen have threatened to dock 10,000 fishing vessels after the government raised the diesel price by 0.60 baht last week. Their spokesman, Viroj Chantranimi, adviser to the National Fisheries of Thailand, wants the government to drop the hike as fuel accounts for as much as 75 to 80% of the fishermen’s business costs. (US$1=38 baht).
“We want the diesel oil price to remain at 12 baht per litre,” he told The Nation newspaper. In a surprise move, the Energy Ministry raised the diesel price from 14.59 baht to 15.19 baht after announcing it was slashing fuel subsidies to ease the burden on the state oil fund. The fund has been subsidising diesel at a rate of 3 baht a litre, or 188 million baht a day.
The ministry said that to date, the fund has spent 68.78 billion baht on subsidies, putting a heavy burden on the government’s finances with oil prices hovering near record levels for several months.
The higher diesel cost could ignite inflation and hurt the urban poor, farmers and fishermen. Diesel price has cruised past US$50 a barrel and is headed US$60 a barrel.
Thailand has around 50,000 fishing trawlers, including 20,000 big fishing vessels.
“The high diesel price will hurt more than half of the big fishing vessels. We may see 10,000 vessels resting in dock because it’s not worthwhile for them to go out fishing,” said Mr Viroj.