By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
AS negotiations between the government and Oban Energies continue for a more environmentally-friendly and sustainable development, a source close to the project says that Oban officials remain confident and committed to the project.
“Out of respect for the Bahamas government and people of the Bahamas, Oban thought it best not to make public statements while negotiations are ongoing,” said the source.
“But they remain confident and committed to materialising an environmentally-friendly and economically sustainable sound project that would be good for Grand Bahama and the wider Bahamas.”
The government and Oban are renegotiating extensive changes to a heads of agreement with Oban Energies for a $5.5 billion oil refinery and storage facility in East Grand Bahama. The government initially signed the Heads of Agreement in February 2018, but after much public controversy decided to review it.
According to the source, Oban remains confident of the project going forward.
“Oban is keenly aware of the environment concerns expressed, and will make relentless efforts to make this project environmentally-friendly. It will be sustainable and create hundreds of jobs for Bahamians.”
The source also indicated that Oban remains with a presence in the Bahamas and has signed a tentative lease for an office.
“It is said that once the project begins, up to 600 to 1,200 Bahamians would be hired immediately in the first phase,” the source said.
This comes months after Alexander Grikitis, president of Oban Energies, declared his confidence in the future of the project after a lengthy meeting with government officials at the Ministry of Labour.
At the time, Mr Grikitis gave no details about what happened in the March meeting, telling reporters “agreements and confidentiality” dictate he not speak about it. Asked if he is confident the project will still go ahead, he said in March: “I am, 100 percent.”
“We’re in negotiations and some things they have requested to change, but I can’t really make too many statements at this point but (today) we’ll be more open to talk,” Mr Grikitis had previously said.
The government wants to amend Oban Energies’ Heads of Agreement (HoA) to adjust environmental clauses, economic terms and several restrictive legal conditions. The project has been opposed by environment organisations. An environmental impact assessment for the project has not been disclosed to the public.
Promoted as a multi-billion-dollar investment in Grand Bahama, Oban Energies became a lightning rod for criticism early last year when unflattering information about some of the people representing the company were publicised and it was discovered that Peter Krieger, the company’s former non-executive chairman, signed the HoA on behalf of Satpal Dhunna, the former president of the company, at a public ceremony.
In addition, Mr Krieger pleaded guiltily to first-degree felony of organised fraud in 2006. He also faced accusations of misappropriating more than $3.7m of investor monies, which he denied doing.
The Tribune also revealed last year that Mr Dhunna was dismissed by his former employer, CreditSights, in 2010 for “alleged gross misconduct.”
Additionally, research showed that Oban Energies’ previous senior vice-president, Russell Erickson, purported to have a wealth of experience designing, coordinating and managing large logistical supply chain strategies, was experienced only in boat manufacturing.
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has admitted Cabinet made mistakes with the project.
“We would still be assessing what is best for the Bahamas, ensuring we do all the proper investigations, ensure environment impact studies, ensure our environment is protected,” Dr Minnis said in March when asked about Oban’s future. “So whatever is in the best interest of the Bahamas will be done.”