LOCAL firm Bunkers Oil Trinidad and Tobago has only been granted a "conditional approval" by Cabinet "thus far" to operate in the country, Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine said yesterday. Speaking at the post-Cabinet media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann's he said the final award was still subject to Cabinet's "due diligence".
Ramnarine held a three-hour meeting with the Oilfields Workers' Trade Union (OWTU) president general Ancel Roget on Wednesday, but that meeting ended with no resolution over the bunkering company and other issues related to State-owned oil company Petrotrin.
Roget has said the lack of answers regarding the award of a bunkering contract led to a shutdown at Petrotrin this week and threats of a fuel shortage.
"Since I've become Minister this (shutdown) has happened now on four occasions and what we've seen is while that is natural, the extent to which it is happening, I find is not as significant as it used to be in the past. I think people are saying, you know what, we will get back gas pretty soon," he said.
Ramnarine said over the past six to seven months he has received information of similar types of incidents.
"I've received complaints from Jamaica, a couple of the Caribbean islands when they visit have said that during this period, (they) had problems getting products from Petrotrin and (they) had to import from other sources and so on, and it was as a consequence of the industrial relations climate at the time," he said.
"I indicated to the union that no licence has been awarded thus far, what happened is that the Cabinet had given a conditional approval, the award of any licence by the Ministry of Energy would be subject to a due diligence being conducted by the ministry. That due diligence has not started but the ministry plans to execute that due diligence," Ramnarine said.
"Coming out of our meeting yesterday the union expressed the view that Petrotrin should be involved in a larger way in the bunkering business so we have asked the board to conduct a commercial evaluation of the opportunity that presents itself with regard to bunkering. I believe there was a 2006 report done by Petrotrin, so the board will be basically doing a new report now to evaluate the opportunity," Ramnarine said.
Ramnarine said his ministry and the National Energy Corporation (NEC) will be conducting a stakeholder consultation on the bunkering sector.
"Because we think that a significant opportunity is about to present itself given our location, given the expansion of the Panama Canal, given the establishment of what is shaping up to be a very large oil industry in French Guiana, an opportunity is presenting itself for Trinidad and Tobago to play a major hemispheric role in the bunkering and maritime services business," he said.