A closed gas station due to the national strike of hazardous goods lorry drivers, is pictured on April 17, 2019 in Seixal, in the outskirts of Lisbon. - Many Portuguese were queuing at the few gas stations where it was still possible to refuel despite the shortages caused by a strike of the fuel carriers. (Photo by CARLOS COSTA / AFP)CARLOS COSTA/AFP/Getty Images
© AFP

The Portuguese government on Wednesday implemented emergency measures to safeguard fuel supplies for ambulances, airports, fire trucks and other critical services as a strike by tanker drivers entered a third day.

Drivers queued at petrol stations as suppliers said an estimated 40 per cent of the country’s 3,068 stations had run out of fuel.

Spanish air controllers said on Twitter on Wednesday that several flights from Faro airport in southern Portugal had landed across the border in Seville to refuel before continuing their journeys.

Portuguese security forces have been placed on standby to escort fuel tankers and supply drivers if required. A convoy of at least nine fuel tankers escorted by police travelled on Tuesday from a fuel depot outside the capital to replenish fuel reserves at Lisbon airport.

The government on Tuesday declared an “energy crisis”, invoking labour legislation to order the strikers to maintain 100 per cent of normal fuel supplies to hospitals, fire stations, airports, air bases and ports. The drivers were also ordered to ensure a minimum of 40 per cent of normal supplies to gas stations in Lisbon and Porto.

António Costa, the prime minister, told parliament on Wednesday that the government was seeking to mediate in the private sector conflict between the National Union of Dangerous Goods Drivers and employers over demands for increased workers’ rights.

Fuel supplies to airports were guaranteed and the minimum 40-per cent supply measure could be extended to gas stations across the country, Mr Costa said. Only one flight had been diverted to refuel on Tuesday, he added.

ANA, the country’s main airports operator, on Wednesday warned passengers travelling from Lisbon and Faro that “there might be changes to your flight” because the strike had interrupted aircraft fuel supplies. It advised travellers to check flights with their airlines.

Portugal has been hit by months of strike action by workers ranging from nurses and teachers to firefighters and prison guards seeking to lift their incomes as the economy recovers from a deep recession triggered by the European debt crisis.

The tanker driver union was created only six months ago. It has about 700 members out of an estimated total of about 1,000 fuel truck drivers in Portugal. The union said it would comply with minimum service requirements, but would continue the strike until a satisfactory agreement was reached with employers.

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