Companies in Larnaca have one week to come up with a schedule for moving their gas and oil storage facilities to the energy hub at Vassilikos, Interior Minister Socrates Hasikos announced on Wednesday.
Although there is a presidential decree stating the companies should complete the move by January 1, 2017 it was decided at a meeting of the interior minister, energy minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis, members of the Larnaca municipality and oil companies to give the companies a chance to specify when they can realistically move.
“Isn’t the decree valid which is a court order? It certainly is,” Hasikos said after the meeting. “On the one hand we have the decree which specifies January 1 but on the other we have the reality, which -and I say it straight out – does not allow companies to move by January 2017. It is objectively impossible.”
This meant, he added, the moving date must be moved, to June 2017, or December 2017 or even January 2018.
He said the timetable would become clearer after the companies submitted a schedule outlining when they believed they could move.
A committee will be set up to monitor the schedule and brief the two ministers on developments.
What was important, the minister said, was that the process had started and some companies had already moved.
“I want to be fair to the companies. They have done what they can. This is a problem that has been around for decades, governments were coming and going and all said the oil companies will move from this area, but nobody did anything about it,” he said. “We at least put the base, we launched the process which has already started, and what remains is to complete the move.”
Asked if because of the delay companies would be subject to penalties, Hasikos replied that “first and foremost we have to see if companies are responsible for not leaving by January 2017. One has to consider that as well. Has the state itself a responsibility for this?”
The minister made it clear that the government would not assist the companies financially and requests for help by some of the companies had been rejected. There would be no cost to the state or the taxpayer.
The two ministers also held a meeting with members of the nine communities in the Vassilikos area.
Afterwards, Hasikos said that the area was being burdened since there were already other major industries in the area.
The communities were right to be worried about health, environmental and other issues.
“I want to say that we as a government are next to them, to help them to get compensation from the companies, but at the same time to take care of their health above all and second their quality of life,” he said.
The companies would have to carry part of the burden. “There is a lot that can be done. The communities have shown that they cooperate and therefore the right partners need to be addressed,” he concluded.
While the storage units are being moved to Vassilikos, in a separate move the port oil service industry which had also been based in Larnaca port are also in the process of leaving. Their operations are being relocated to the Limassol port.