Muscat: Stricter laws and penalties are needed to stop diesel and petrol smuggling through land and sea borders, Omani lawmakers say.

Omani authorities have foiled more than 20 attempts to transport petrol and diesel through border posts to neighbouring countries in recent days.

Humaid Al Nasri, a member of the elected Shura Council, told Gulf News that petrol and diesel smuggling could increase given that the UAE had raised petrol prices.

“Petrol and diesel smugglers, particularly trailer drivers, will make a huge profit from smuggling petrol on a daily basis,” Al Nasri said.

More than three new petrol stations were built recently in Mahda province of the Buraimi governorate and another three near Hatta at the UAE border.

“Building such petrol stations raise so many questions as very small populations reside in those area,” said Salim Al Rashdi, another Shura member.

Al Rashdi added that diesel and petrol smuggling cost the country millions of riyals every year due to the increasing demand for Omani fuel in nearby markets.

To curb smuggling, observers believe that petrol stations operating near the Omani–UAE borders should be strictly regulated. Harsher penalties also will help curb smuggling, they said.

Ahmad Al Musalmi, an economic expert, said that heavy trucks and trailers should be monitored and limits set on the amount of fuel sold to them.

Al Musalmi also suggested that the prices of petrol and diesel sold at petrol stations near the border be raised to curb fuel smuggling.

Meanwhile, Omani petrol stations near the UAE borders have witnessed a huge rush of Emirati motorists since fuel prices were raised in the UAE.

A petrol station owner in Buraimi, Mohammad Al Shamsi, told Gulf News that since petrol prices in the UAE went up, there has been a huge rush at all petrol stations in Buraimi, which borders Al Ain.

“The sale prices have increased more than 15 per cent this week alone as many Emirati nationals are crossing the border to fill their vehicles with petrol every day,” said Al Shamsi.

The Minister for Financial Affairs, Darwish Al Beloushi, recently stated that the Omani government is likely to start cutting fuel subsidies this year amid the slump in oil prices.

Al Beloushi said he believed that people would be more accommodative of such a move now since natural resources were being overused. The move would come in light of low oil prices that are, according to Oman’s Minister of Oil and Gas, Mohammad Al Rumhi, costing the country up to $55 million (Dh202 million) a day.

Oman’s budget deficit for 2015 is estimated to be 3.6 billion riyals, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the figure marking 13.2 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.