As published on The Malta Independent on Sunday 9th March 2014
It was encouraging to see the government sponsoring an international business conference hosted at the Hilton last Friday in collaboration with a prestigious newspaper The Economist.
Moran than 300 people turned up to pay the €650 entrance fee and hear the views of European politicians and various members of the Maltese Cabinet. Keynote speakers included two former Italian prime ministers¸ including Enrico Letta¸ and Professor Mario Monti¸ a former EU Commissioner responsible for the internal market who is currently president of Milan’s Bocconi University. To balance the political spectrum the organizers invited a former Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson and former Employment Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou and in a view to add variety and depth on the economic front the panel included assistant secretary general of the League of Arab States Fadel Jawad¸ a Tunisian minister and British economist Jim O’Neill¸ a former chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. However¸ in my opinion the jewel in the crown was the session devoted to oil and gas which was followed by a discussion on future plans how to attract serious investment in improving maritime facilities.
To elaborate on this topic and give his views on the chances of Malta ever becoming an oil producer was Genel Energy CEO Tony Hayward – whose company in association with MOG is drilling a deep sea well this month in a promising offshore concession. It is encouraging to note that this year Mediterranean Oil and Gas Plc (MOG) as a licence holder starts to prepare to drill two exploratory wells in Block 4¸ 5¸ 6 and 7 of Area 4. MOG has previously commissioned a specialist operator to shoot a seismic survey and succeeded to interpret an extensive long-offset 3D view over the central graben area of Area 4. The prospects look promising such that it is now apparent that this part of offshore site which is geologically analogous to the Libyan Sirte Basin contains analogues to proven producing fields in Libya in addition to those offshore Tunisia. The penny dropped that past governments have tried but failed to discover any traces of the stuff but perhaps now with new technology we ought to attract new investors and start planning in a more aggressive way how to exploit our riches (if any) under the sea.
At the Hilton conference¸ ministers Chris Cardona¸ Joe Mizzi and Konrad Mizzi gave their views on the energy sector which complements the creation of an improved maritime facility at the ex-Marsa shipyards site. It is widely expected that the government announce its decision how it intends to be transform the derelict site in Marsa to a fully equipped maritime hub. Last year there was an international call for expression of interest for the development of the whole site which measures in excess of 175¸000 sq m and so far 28 applied.
It stands to reason that as the exploration activity is booming both in central and eastern Mediterranean one would expect that Malta will not lose the opportunity t