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Ablecare to take ‘most’ of Marsa Shipbuilding

Date: 12/10/2015

Ablecare Oilfield Services yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding with the government for what Economy Minister Chris Cardona described as “most” of the Marsa Shipbuilding site.

Ablecare, which has 14 years’ experience in the industry, was announced preferred bidder last January after an international call for expressions of interest, proposing to use the 175,000-square metre site for oil and gas logistics.

At one stage it appeared that the government would only give part of the site to Ablecare and other operators were already approaching the government with ideas, including Dutch company Damen Shipyards. None of these options was sufficiently aligned with the government’s vision and the decision was taken to award “most” of the area to the new concessionaire – Dr Cardona did not elaborate – although Ablecare would be able to allow its use by third parties as long as this was in line with the site’s overall strategy.

“We do not want speculation on this site. It is the only available area with access to the sea, which means it plays an important role in developing Malta as a maritime hub,” he said.

Dr Cardona said it had taken several months to reach this stage as the project needed to be analysed by various ministries and entities, ranging from the Land Department and Transport Authority, to Mepa and Enemalta. There were also a number of operators on the site, which were there on encroachment basis, and who had to be evicted.

The MOU paves the way for negotiations to begin on the terms of the concession, which then require a parliamentary resolution before the handover can be made. Dr Cardona said this could be done within weeks so that dredging could begin by the first quarter of 2016. Ablecare has been using part of the quay for oil rigs since October 2013 but its plans for the site will be much more holistic, from inspection and certification, to storage and engineering.

Dr Cardona said the site would offer a range of services that would make Malta unique in the region, adding a high value-added activity to the economy and creating jobs. The company will also locate its academy there, offering specialised internationally-certified courses to about 25 students at a time.

He said Ablecare had already spent €500,000 on dredging tests on the site to ensure there would be no restrictions on its planned activities. Dredging would start at the beginning of 2016 and the site would become operational “almost straight away”, he added.

“We have already showcased the project at various conferences and there has been considerable interest. This is going to be a very high visibility project.”

Dr Cardona said that it was impossible to calculate the multiplier effect of Ablecare’s investment until the project got underway “but it will be considerable”, he insisted.

Source: Times of Malta

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