The 3rd Mare Forum, hosted in the Republic of Cyprus on 24th June 2014 at the Intercontinental Aphrodite Hills Resort Hotel in Kouklia, Paphos, turned out to be a very well attended, inspiring and constructive event. The choice for Cyprus to act as the hosting place for the forum was not coincidental, as its main focus was on issues of oil and gas, with particular emphasis on offshore exploration and related maritime transportation. Dr. Loukas G. Glyptis, PhD Lecturer of Accounting, School of Business and Management, UCLan Cyprus was there and reports:
Considerable gas reserves have been identified on the island’s declared Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and in particular to the part of it which is close to the boundaries with the EEZ of Israel. Key stakeholders from the oil and gas as well as the shipping and energy exploration industry were among the speakers. Among the distinguished speakers were Mr Jannis Kostoulas, President of Mare Forum, Mr Solon Kassinis, Past Executive Vice President of the Cyprus National Hydrocarbons Company, Mr Philip Embiricos, Past President of BIMCO, Anthony Foskolos, Professor at the Technical University of Crete, and many more.
Themes of particular interest that were discussed, concerned world and regional geopolitics. More specifically, the speakers illustrated the geopolitical developments that have been taking place in Europe, and in particular in Ukraine, in order to establish the main thesis that emerged out of their speeches. Their main position was supportive of an increased and strategic role that Israel, the Republic of Cyprus, and Greece can play as partners with good reasons for cooperation in the formation of a safe, reliable and undisrupted energy route towards Europe.
Among other issues discussed, emphasis was given on how the International Court of Justice interpreted and implemented the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in the delimitation of the EEZ among, for example, such countries as Malta, Libya and Italy, and Norway, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. Useful lessons were drawn on how Greece can proceed with declaring its EEZ and address Turkey’s allegations against the right of inhabited islands to have sea shelf.
Further presentations and discussions shifted towards challenging the pipeline versus shipping debate in the ultra deep water oil and gas explorations in the Mediterranean.Presentations were aimed at highlighting the pros and cons of transferring energy through pipelines versus establishing either an onshore or offshore energy hub. In particular, presenters used the case of Cyprus to demonstrate the technical complexity and soaring costs that would be involved in a project of establishing a pipeline to transfer gas from Cyprus to Crete and then via main Greece to Europe. On the other hand, the prospect of establishing a pipeline to transfer gas from Cyprus to Europe via Turkey was excessively argued against mainly due to political reasons, including not only Turkey’s 40-year occupation of the northern part of the island and the country’s high political instability, but also the conflicting political interests between Israel, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon.
Finally, extensive discussions were made on the financial feasibility of an onshore energy hub. For such hub to be sustainable, the presenters concluded that particularly for Cyprus, it has to identify further gas reserves to justify the cost of the project. On the contrary, the prospect of an offshore hub, which nowadays is feasible via floating LNGs was projected as a possible alternative. This scenario involves the use of offshore support vessels to facilitate the transportation of gas to the European markets. Regardless of whether an offshore or onshore energy hub is established, all presenters agreed that the role of shipping is instrumental in supporting energy transportation, not only from the sources of energy in the Mediterranean such as for example Cyprus and in the future, Crete but also to islands such as those of Greece in the Aegean and Ionian Seas, which have been argued to be excellent potential markets for gas consumption.