Turning Malta into a mini-Aberdeen

Source: Mr George M. Mangion¸ PKF Malta

As published on The Malta Today on Wednesday 12th February 2013


On the 16 June PKF shall be attending an international oil and gas conference in Aberdeen Scotland hosted jointly together with a reputable foreign organiser who is a specialist in the field. It is expected to attract more than 250 investors who will be encouraged to invest sufficient resources into Malta’s nascent hydrocarbon sector and maritime support services.

In a wider context¸ the conference is gearing up to sow the seeds which will see Malta grow into an offshore hub as has been the case for Aberdeen which we all know leads as a specialist pioneer in this sector. The subject of drilling for oil has been an enigma since the Borg Oliver administration and in the past 50 years there were various attempts to strike oil or gas but so far there has been little success. Still there is a feeling of déjà vu among islanders that in consideration of the high costs to drill for hydrocarbons¸ some would prefer that the Government ‘goes slow’ on promoting the sector yet continues to put its money where its mouth is…that is¸ supporting the public expenditure including the heavy investment in free healthcare and pensions. Others disagree and want to risk more capital as in the past very little was spared.

So let us seriously reconsider the option of oil prospecting together with upgrading our facilities to service oil rigs and so on… which¸ if successful¸ can prove to be a panacea. Medserv director Anthony Duncan has said that Malta could well become a “mini North Sea” if all the oil and gas activity being planned in the Mediterranean takes off. Starting with the massive decommissioning works at the North Sea one can hope that Malta will be able to win part of the massive works that will be created. Decommissioning in the North Sea is a huge opportunity. Over the next 30 years¸ this market is estimated at £30–35 billion¸ and once we organize ourselves Malta can also export the know-how and experience in engineering and sheet metal skills that have been acquired over the decades as a major ship repair yard.

To meet the scale of this decommissioning programme¸ our maritime industry needs to expand and push innovations that will attract part of the growing need to repair abandoned rigs and other unused equipment. It is an opportunity which cannot be missed – i.e. sharing the engineering tasks of decommissioning projects in the North Sea – and this fits perfectly within the vision of government with its policy to sustain the maritime sector by offering the Marsa’s former shipyard for international tenders.

With such facilities¸ Malta can also provide support services to oil and gas activity in Libya¸ Tunisia¸ Egypt and Southern Italy. The possibilities for growth are existent and the long-term macroeconomics can be determined once government succeeds in attracting local operators to share their decommissioning overload. However¸ obtaining this information¸ or at least improving our understanding of short-term¸ operator-specific requirements¸ is crucial so that su