Jul 08, 2022 News
US$300M Vreed-en-Hoop shore base facility…
– Dr. Janette Bulkan calls on EPA to explain why there is no EIA for dredgingKaieteur News – University of British Colombia (UBC) Professor, Dr. Janette Bulkan has complained that the area cleared for the dredging that will be done at Plantation Best, West Bank Demerara, for the US$300M Vreed-en-Hoop shore base facility crosses traditional fishing grounds.
As such, Dr. Bulkan called on the Environmental Protection (EPA) to give an explanation as to why there is no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the dredging that will be done at Plantation Best for the facility. On June 21, last, the sod was turned for the Vreed-en-Hoop Shorebase Inc. (VEHSI) which will sit on 400 hectares of coastal land. The VEHSI is being constructed by NRG Holdings Incorporated, a 100-percent Guyanese-owned consortium along with Hadi’s World Incorporated, National Hardware Limited and ZRN Investments Incorporated are the Guyanese investors involved in the project. They have partnered with Jan de Nul Group, a Belgian engineering and construction firm.
Kaieteur News had reported that the construction of the US$300 million facility is for oil major ExxonMobil Guyana, to provide shore base services to its upcoming US$10B Yellowtail development offshore Guyana. It was reported that several vessels are already in Guyana’s waters to commence the first phase of the project with a December 2023 deadline for completion.
In referencing Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) notice to Mariners number 113, dated June 28, 2022, Dr. Bulkan stated that the notice defines a sea area of 119 square kilometres offshore from Plantation Best, where the biggest of the oil field shore bases is being constructed – this is to be deep-dredged up by year end. According to Dr. Bulkan the clear intention is to allow much larger ships to navigate the Demerara Ship Channel into Georgetown Harbour.
It was noted that there are two Trailing Suction Hopper Dredges’ (TSHD) owned by Jan De Nul and flagged in Luxembourg, Europe. She explained that the two TSHD: “Can dredge to a depth of 30 metres. The present entry channel is much shorter, narrower and only dredged to 5-6m deep. The two dredgers have capacities of 18,000 m3 and 4,000 m3. It seems from the MARAD notice number 113 that ExxonMobil’s intention is to triple the depth of the channel to 15 metres.”
It was highlighted that MARAD notice 116 dated July 1, states that the dredging has started. Dr. Bulkan stated that the area cleared for dredging crosses traditional fishing grounds of the artisanal fishermen.
“Few fishermen read the newspapers and I am not aware of any other attempt to inform them of the disruption to their business,” Dr. Bulkan added.
She explained that by its nature, dredging disturbs the natural environment and, in Guyana, affects the livelihoods of fishermen. She then highlighted that fishers have both legal and customary rights to their traditional fishing grounds. To this end she said, “I cannot find any call by the Environmental Protection Agency to demand an Environmental Impact Assessment.”
Dr. Bulkan then questioned where will the dredged mud be discharged, between now and the end of 2022. She then pointed out in her letter that while the EIAs for Exxon’s first four fields, Liza-1, Liza-2, Payara and Yellowtail, all disclaim attention to dredging – dredging is stated to be associated with and the responsibility of the shore-base owners/operators. In further making her point, Dr. Bulkan stated that the EPA’s covering statement for the Liza-2 EIA mentions ‘pipe yards and bonds’ onshore but not any dredging.
According to Dr. Bulkan there was celebratory statements in the newspapers about 11 billion barrels and counting of oil. To this, Dr. Bulkan said: “That oil is being pumped at breakneck speed, at a pace determined by the Operator, with our government in the role of enabler and cheerleader. We can see from the Government of Guyana’s own websitehttps://petroleum.gov.gy/data-visualization that oil production from FPSO Liza Destiny from the Liza-1 field has been de-bottlenecked to over 150,000 bpd by May 2022.”
She added that the aforementioned are very high-risk strategies for Guyana, particularly since there is no national conversation on the negative externalities of the reckless pace of extraction which is, and will be borne; not only now but also in the future, by Guyanese and the non-human life forms which share the territorial sea and Exclusive Economic Zone. In closing, Dr. Bulkan said, “Through your newspaper, I call for an explanation from the EPA of why there is no EIA for this dredging. I also call for protection of the legal and customary rights of fishers to their traditional fishing grounds.”
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