Oil Drilling Plans Postponed
Cuba and a consortium of foreign oil companies have once again postponed plans to drill for oil in the island’s still-untapped fields in the Gulf of Mexico, diplomatic and industry sources told the Reuters news agency.
Cuba had announced the consortium; led by Spain’s Repsol-YPF, would drill in June or July, but now it is uncertain when work will begin in the waters that Cuban oil experts say may contain 20 billion barrels of oil.
“The project has been postponed until a further date for more study,” said a foreign oil industry source with direct knowledge of the plans. “It is premature to say when drilling might begin, later this year or next.” A European diplomat told Reuters he had first-hand knowledge that drilling was postponed at least until the end of 2009, if not into 2010. Neither source wished to be identified.
Brazil To Fund Port Reconstruction
Brazil said July 9 it would give Cuba up to $300 million in credits to start rebuilding the port of Mariel, better known as the site of a 1980 Cuban exodus to the United States.
Reuters reported that Brazilian Industry and Trade Minister Miguel Jorge said $110 million had been approved by his government and the rest would likely be, as Brazil strengthens its ties with communist-led Cuba. He that construction, to be led by a Brazilian company, would begin “very soon” with the building of infrastructure including highways and a railroad for the port about 30 miles (50 km) west of Havana.
Brazilian officials said Cuba expects the entire port project, which will be built in several phases, to cost up to $2 billion. The first phase is projected to take four or five years to complete and cost $600 million, they said.
Mariel was the scene of the massive boatlift from April to October 1980 when a flotilla of vessels from Florida picked up 125,000 Cubans after the Cuban government said anyone wanting to leave the island could do so. Now Cuba wants Mariel to serve as logistics center for its still-nascent offshore oil industry and to be equipped to handle shipments from around the world, including the United States, 90 miles (145 km) to the north.
Jorge, who was on the second day of a two day visit to Cuba, said Brazilian state oil giant Petrobras which last October was awarded a bloc for oil exploration in Cuban waters, would open an office in Havana in July.