Most of this week was taken up with our trade mission to Mozambique - we wanted to take a firsthand look at the implications of the big gas discoveries in the north of the country. About 12 SAOGA members joined up with 5 or so members of Abderdeen Chamber of Commerce's Africa Business Centre (ABC) and set off for 4 days in Mozambique - some of the ABC guys then came to Cape Town for 2 days to find out more about the opportunities here.
For many of us it was our first time in Mozambique although the richness of the experience was greatly enhanced by having a few members (Neil Scott-Williams at Subtech and the Toprope guys to name two) who have been in Mozambique before and know their way around the country. Coming into a former Portugese colony recovering from a bloody civil war it was hard not to draw comparisons with Angola as we arrived in Maputo last Sunday. This was in fact the first real surprise of the trip: for now at least Mozambique is much more accessible for South Africans! For a start there is no visa required to enter the country and once in the city I was pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of the people, the relative ease with which one could manage in English, the fact that they drive on the left as we do and that there is no reason not to hire a car at the airport and drive yourself around once you have your bearings. The Cardosso Hotel we stayed in was very pleasant as were the various restaurants we visited although it should be noted that thse were chosen to minimize the risk of any nasty bugs. Overall, Maputo was a good stop to get the feel of the place but there is not much happening on the oil and gas front. ENH, the NOC, isn't really up and running with any coherent policies and the operators tend to have only a government relations person in Maputo. The real action is 2600km north in Pemba.
A comfortable 2h40min flight on LAM's new Embraer 190 jet took us to Pemba for a short visit that lasted from Tuesday afternoon to Wednesday lunchtime when we left on the direct SAA flight to Johannesburg. During the time we had a chance to tour the town and get a good sense of the layout of the place, the harbour, the O&G yards as well as attend a networking event where we met a good number of the O&G expats in Pemba with the notable exception of Eni who apparently don't like to attend events that the rival operator Anadarko is at! Some of the main impressions and insights for me:
- The harbour is small and in an extremely constrained area with a steep hillside abutting it. It is not ideal as a place to get equipment in and out of there;
- The Pemba Bay in which the harbour sits is surprisingly deep - upto 70m - and there seems to be quite some opportunity to do ship repair work there if the appropriate infrastructure is created;
- At the moment there are two operators active in the area. Anadarko has two active drillships (Transocean and Dolphin Drilling) and Eni has a Saipem drillship under contract;
- Both Halliburton and Schlumberger have established yards there;
- Eni seems to have gone with a heavier staffing commitment than Anadarko who have only 4 expats in Pemba. Eni by contrast has built up a substantial office and runs their procurement function from it;
- The drilling is happening offshore from Palma which is roughly 140km north of Palma. Unless Statoil (which has a block off Pemba and is not yet active) finds hydrocarbon off Pemba it seems to me that there is little chance that Pemba will remain the main operational centre for the area - as a new airport, harbour and facilities are constructed at Palma it seems that teh Eni and Anadarko activity will move up there. For now Eni is crew changing through Pemba whereas Anadarko does changes at a small airport between Pemba and Palma.
- Without a doubt these discoveries are going to change Mozambique and will create activity in the area for a long time. Now is the time for SA companies to be finding their way into this opportunity.
One of the real areas of value to emerge from the mission was that it gave our member companies time to meet each other and start to think about how they might be able to work together to access this opportunity. Several SA companies have already established themselves in Pemba and are busy making investments. A number of those on the trip are actively thinking about this too - more importantly there is a conversation about whether costs couldn't be shared to put some sort of South African/SAOGA presence on the ground in Pemba. This is a definite next step for us to work on. If anyone wants to get further info or details on the trip please contact me - I'd be happy to share more details.