A picture circulating social media on December 26 has created quite a stir among Abaconians and Bahamians alike as the image showed an oil drilling platform located approximately 10 miles south of Hole in the Wall, in the Tongue of the Ocean.
Minister of Education, Jerome Fitzgerald, acting in place of the Minister of Housing and the Environment Ken Dorsett, made a statement on Monday regarding the drilling platform.
He noted that “given the strategic location of our chain of islands and the vast area of ocean that it covers, thousands of merchant ships, oil tankers and pleasure crafts pass through Bahamian waters annually,” adding that this “is regarded by the government as another routine passage of a sea going vessel through Bahamian waters.”
He said that the government of The Bahamas “has not contracted, approved or commissioned oil drilling operations within the territorial waters on The Bahamas.”
Minister Fitzgerald said that the record clearly shows the government has been “frank and transparent” with Bahamians concerning oil drilling and that “There is no need for anybody to rush to judgment based on conjecture, speculation and mischief.”
Also, when contacted, a Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) spokesperson told a Nassau Guardian Business reporter about the mystery rig, “That has nothing to do with us.”
Currently BPC is the only company with licenses to drill for oil in The Bahamas, as they await passage of legislation and regulations that will modernize the petroleum industry
A search of website marinetraffic.com shows an oil platform named GSF Development Driller 1 with a status of “Restricted Maneuverability” about 10 miles south of Sandy Point as of December 29. The website gives the platform a destination of Las Palmas in the Canary Islands off the coast of West Africa.
Rigzone, an oil and gas industry news website, shows that the oil platform is owned and managed by a company named Transocean Ltd.
On December 30 we were informed that a Royal Bahamas Defense Force vessel was dispatched to the area, however, up till press time had not found the mystery rig.
While there appears to be no cause for concern as information indicates that the oil platform is bound for a destination other than Bahamian waters, the commentary in public and on social media continues.
Many are concerned about the lack of promised modern legislation and regulations being tabled, while others conveyed a complete distrust of government, believing that they would allow oil drilling to commence “behind the back of the Bahamian people.”
Presently BPC hold 10 licenses for oil exploration in The Bahamas which were granted in April of 2007. In 2013, the second term of each of the licenses was extended to 2016, with an obligation to commence drilling of the first exploration well by April 2015, with a further requirement to commence a second exploration well by April 2017.