Serious developers being sought for lands surrounding planned Crab Island onshore oil facility

With government committed to the development of Crab Island in Region Five, to serve the future oil and gas sector, the Guyana Lands and Surveys Com-mission (GL&SC) is hoping to ensure the development of surrounding lands that it is seeking to lease.

In an advertisement in Wednesday’s Stabroek News, the GL&SC invited offers for the purchase of leasehold interest for a term of 50 years for 22 tracks, numbered one to 22, on the right bank of the Berbice River, just below Crab Island.

Commissioner of GL&SC Trevor Benn told Stabroek News that rather than lease the lands on an application basis, which would entail a longer pro-cess, the agency chose to advertise so that individuals or local and foreign companies can bid and submit proposals for development.

“There is a heavy interest in the area and we want to have a more structured way in allocating the land to persons who and can occupy, rather than receiving individual applications,” Benn explained.

He said that a public advertisement sells the idea to more persons and a non-refundable $300,000 project review fee could see the shortlist of persons who are serious about the immediate development of the lands, instead of those buying and holding for future market purposes.

Also noted by Benn was the fact that many persons that have lands leased from GL&SC did not develop the properties as stated in their applications and instead some are “laying there” or have been leased to a third party for a higher fee.

“We will see people who are seriously interested… people hear that the area has potential and they lease it and keep it for a number of years until maybe works start there…so we are trying to cut out the middlemen and go to the people who are serious about utilizing the land. For too long people sit on the land and wait on the next person to develop it,” he said.

“Many persons have in the past benefited from a lot of the large acreage and we here at the GL&SC have not seen the returns and not seen the effort to put the lands to use… if they pay competitive prices, they will try to make the best of the value for their dollar. But our aim right now is finding the most capable individuals and organizations to develop these lands so that our country can benefit,” he added.

Benn explained that interested persons could apply for a small portion of the land or any amount that they feel they have the wherewithal to develop in alignment with the objectives of the GL&SC.

He was also quick to point out that “anyone or company from around the world can apply” but they must note that all applications will be subjected to a rigorous review process.

The GL&SC advertisement states that persons could obtain from its Hadfield Street office a copy of the sketch plan, showing the acreage of each track and GL&SC standard proposal guidelines for a $10,000 fee.

In late December, 2016, Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman announced that government’s plans to invest in an onshore oil and gas facility at Crab Island, which, when completed, will see the investment of US$500 million and the creation of 600 jobs.

He had said that Cabinet has since given its ‘no objection’ to the establishment of the onshore industrial site in the area and that it would be forged through the joint efforts of the Ministries of Natural Resources, Public Infra-structure and Business. Construction is expected to start early this year and the investments from the private sector, and government’s infrastructural work and support will be equivalent to US$500,000,000, which will lead to the creation of approximately 600 direct jobs, he reported.

“It is a multiyear project. The idea is to identify potential investors and the government is looking for a public-private partnership arrangement where we in government would have a minority stake but would try to open it up to world class companies who know about this but also to give Guyanese companies [an opportunity] to be a part of it as well,” Trotman had told Stabroek News, when asked for an update earlier this month.

“…We have received proposals from some world-class companies and some local companies. So the idea is to see how we can marry those together so that we can have a major company that is well versed in the supply and logistics business but ensuring that there are some Guyanese in there as well,” he added.

Trotman ruled out ExxonMobil as government’s major partner for the project, while saying that the company would be looking to procure the services needed. “What we have to do is to provide that service, so they use that service… that is the way it is being done all over the world.”

He said that he and Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson had travelled to New Orleans, USA, to have a firsthand look of like operations there. “At no time does the company itself invest in the facility; the company uses the facility,” he added.

Asked if he was given any assurances by ExxonMobil that it would use facilities set up by government, he said “Oh yes.”

He said that right now Exxon is doing exploratory work, out of John Fernandes Limited, at the Wieting and Richter wharf in Georgetown and there is a helicopter site at Ogle.

However, as the sector begins to take off and the industry becomes settled, additional facilities would be needed, since “Water Street would just not be enough.”

“The thing too is if Water Street is already crowded with one company, when others start exploring we think that Crab Island is the best place,” he added.

Trotman stressed that the decision to develop Crab Island and put a deep water port there was not done on a whim as government has looked at studies conducted under the People’s Progressive Party by a Trinidadian and an Indian company. “Crab Island has the best comparative advantage over Georgetown… The fact that Rusal maintains a depth for its own ships, the fact that there is available land, we don’t have to go and uproot anything, the fact that you have, of course, economies of Regions Five and Six that will benefit immensely and the entire nation. So it has a lot of advantages that we believe are good,” he added.

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