Address by the Minister of Energy Mr Y. Lakkotrypis at meeting on “Regional Cooperation in the Area of Safe and Environmentally Friendly Offshore Oil and Gas Activities” - 26/09/2014
It is with great pleasure that I join you today at this important international meeting on the safety and environmental protection from offshore oil and gas activities, organized in Nicosia by the British High Commission and the Cyprus University of Technology. I am delighted and honored to welcome you all to our beautiful island and, of course, to be given this excellent opportunity to converse with you directly.
For Cyprus, the safety and the protection of the environment from offshore hydrocarbons activities are priority issues. The same applies, I am certain, for all our friends in the Eastern Mediterranean. Our common region, after all, has been blessed with the discoveries of substantial quantities of natural gas, which in combination with all the potential hydrocarbon findings, confirm that the area is a new promising source and a possible alternative transport route, for worldwide and European oil and gas supply.
The flip side of exploiting all this natural wealth for the benefit of our peoples is that the resulting increase of oil and gas activities, of which the vast majority takes place offshore, necessitates the adherence to the highest standards of safety and environmental protection during such operations. This became abundantly clear after the recent accidents related to offshore exploration and exploitation activities, especially the 2010 accident in the Gulf of Mexico, whereby public awareness and demand for corrective action with regards to the risks involved also significantly increased.
Obviously, what is urgently needed today is to ensure that our precious and shared ecosystem remains safe and protected, through international and regional cooperation. In this regard, the European Union has taken important steps forward, having decided to thoroughly review the legislative framework pertaining to the safety of offshore hydrocarbon activities.
Specifically, in June 2013 the EU adopted a Directive (2013/30/EU) on the safety of offshore oil and gas operations. The scope of this Directive is to reduce, as far as possible, the occurrence of major accidents relating to offshore oil and gas activities and to limit their consequences, thus increasing the protection of the marine environment and coastal economies against pollution. Furthermore, it aims at establishing minimum conditions for safe offshore exploration and exploitation of oil and gas, limiting possible disruptions to the EU’s indigenous energy production and improving the response mechanisms in case of an accident.
In Cyprus, in order to ensure independence and objectivity, the competent authority for the implementation and monitoring of the Directive is the Department of Labour Inspection of the Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance.
In addition, the Cyprus University of Technology, through the Department of Civil Engineering and Geomatics, is successfully coordinating the Joint Industry Funded Research and Development Programme – in the context of which today’s meeting is held – for the “Development and Implementation of Safety Regime for Offshore Oil and Gas Operations”. Seven different Ministries of the Republic of Cyprus, including the Ministry of Energy, are participating in the Programme, which is in fact jointly funded by the operators of exploration and production activities in our country’s Exclusive Economic Zone, as well as by the contractors supporting their operations. The aim, of course, is to come up with guidelines and recommendations for the development and function in Cyprus of the organizations, regulations, mechanisms and procedures, required to ensure the safety of hydrocarbon activities according to the new EU Directive.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As I have mentioned earlier, offshore oil and gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean is constantly increasing. Undoubtedly, a major accident relating to offshore oil and gas operations in the Mediterranean Sea is likely to have significant negative consequences on the marine and coastal environment.
This is a worst case scenario that we all need to be well prepared for. Particularly for Cyprus, as an island nation with a GDP that depends heavily on tourism, it is a scenario that in no way can be taken lightly. In this respect, we value greatly the collaboration between the Eastern Mediterranean countries engaging in offshore oil and gas operations, especially in major accident prevention and response. This could be achieved by establishing a common policy, based on the exchange of information, expertise and best available techniques in promoting the protection of the environment and the enhancement of safety from these kinds of activities.
In closing therefore, I wish you all every success in the proceedings of this conference. I have no doubt that your discussions here, in Cyprus, will contribute positively to better shape our future policy regarding the safety of offshore oil and gas activities.
Thank you for your attention.