By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Environmental activists yesterday said they were "extremely concerned" that time is rapidly running out to halt Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) after its drilling ship "ducked" their welcome.
Joseph Darville, of the Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay (Save the Bays), told Tribune Business that his preparation of banners at Freeport Harbour proclaiming the group's opposition to oil exploration in Bahamian waters had been in vain after the Stena IceMAX anchored well out to sea between the Berry Islands and Grand Bahama.
"They ducked our protest," he said. "They had word there would be marine and land protests, and decided it would be better to anchor out there between the Berry Islands and Grand Bahama." However, a source familiar with BPC's plans said there had been no "ducking" as there had never been any intention of the Stena IceMAX coming into Freeport.
Mr Darville, meanwhile, said there had been significant air and sea activity with a helicopter and boats frequently racing between Freeport and the drilling ship to deliver both men and equipment. A support ship was also said to be present offloading drilling gear.
With time now against the activists to stop BPC's plans, given that it intends to begin drilling its first exploratory well in waters 90 miles west of Andros on Sunday - just four days away - Mr Darville added: "We have it in the court. It's up to the judge to give us a hearing but we're hoping we'll be able to get a stay before they actually begin drilling.
"I am extremely concerned but, even at the last hour, if the dictum given by the court is to cease drilling they have to stop. Even at the last hour, or 11th hour, they have to stop drilling if the court dictates such."
The threat of legal action blocking its first Bahamas exploratory well has so far proved no obstacle to BPC's continued capital raising to obtain the finance necessary to undergird its activities in both this nation and Trinidad & Tobago.
The company, in a statement to the markets, totally ignored the Judicial Review challenge by activists in saying its Bahamian well will begin "imminently" after it accessed up to $20m in new funding from a "European alternative asset manager".
BPC, in a move that dilutes existing shareholders, including Bahamian investors in the mutual fund it created, is issuing 375m new shares to this "asset manager" at 2 UK pence per share in return for $10m upfront.
The oil explorer added that it also has the option to raise a further $5m from the same investor "within ten business days after the spud of the Perseverance One well" on the same terms, and can also seek an additional $5m on top of that for a grand total of $20m.
Should it raise the extra $10m from this "asset manager", BPC will have a $57.5m financial war chest and sufficient funding to just about cover both its planned Bahamian and Trinidadian activities - estimated to cover $55m at the top end - going into 2021.
"The company has, as previously announced, a planned 2021 work programme in Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname of between $15m and $25m, and a remaining cost associated with the Perseverance One well, net of amounts already prepaid, in the order of $19m-$23m (plus an identified $7m contingency, which may be fully required, in part, or not at all)," it added.
BPC's financial arrangements appear increasingly tied to seeing off the Judicial Review challenge quickly, as another £3m in financing from another source "has been committed, subject to spudding of Perseverance One by 28 December, 2020".