By Laura Suleimenova
Two weeks ago, minister of emergency Vladimir Bozhko stated that North Caspian environmental response base was handed over from TenizService LLP - a KMG subsidiary - to the ministry of emergency situations.
From the very start of construction, the base was attributed with serious environmental claims and lawsuits.
To recall, environmentalists had unsuccessfully opposed locating the base in a special protection zone, neighboring Ak Zhaik sanctuary.
When it was finished, another problem appeared - whose it will be?
After completion, initial reports were NCPOC would be renting it.
At the 2013 Environmental Action Plan public hearings, last September, NCOC representatives said a base rental agreement had been made and talks on some details, particularly, payment terms were going on.
It was expected that the base would be leased to the oil company for equipment and reagent disposal.
Recently, at a conference in Almaty, a KMG person stated a joint use of the base by NCPOC and ministry of emergency was being planned.
It is worth noting that negotiations last year were run to the tune of Mr Bozhko's statements about the need to create an engineering center at the Caspian:
"If we roll out an engineering center and a special marine fire fighting unit at the Caspian Sea, our preparedness will grow many times. Kashagan, on one side, is a God's gift to our country, on the other side, it requires complex technological solutions to avoid emergencies."
At the same time, addressing in the Mazhilis, the lower chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament, he spoke about challenges in these plans - one of them, allegedly a feasibility study was done, but, the budget can not afford it.
Apparently, there was no money in the budget to fund creation of the engineering center, as in late March, ministry distributed a press release announcing a new version of national plan to prevent oil spills and response was being prepared.
Among other things, the press release read that passing of the base to the jurisdiction of a paramilitary emergency well-kill unit Ak Beren under the ministry was considered in order to create a specialized naval emergency rescue service on its basis.
And now, the base has been given to emergency ministry
Amid the situation, the reaction of TenizService LLP, which ranges itself an owner and operator of coastal infrastructure supporting oil production operations in the Kazakh sector of the Caspian Sea, is still a mystery.
General director Gaziz Kussain, does not pick up phones. But his deputy Aleksei Safonov briefly said:
"There is nothing to comment. We have nothing to do with the base."
- How is that? Weren't it you who built it?
"I may not comment minister's statement. Ask him."
To Bozhko I sent an official enquiry through the ministerial media service. Shortly, I got the following reply: "At the moment, it is not possible to comment these issues. Once the situation changes, we will promptly advise you."
Our sources in NCOC confirmed the ministry's intention to handle the project via its subsidiary Ak Beren, however, no details were provided.
Lack of accurate information leads us to picture our own versions regarding the base's future.
Minister Bozhko, following a year of attempts to obtain money to erect an engineering center at Caspian to prevent potential accidents during intense crude production, ended in a fiasco.
Fortunately, there is an oil spill response base, a complete facility.
Virtually, it is more like a storage area for keeping equipment.
During the latest visit of chairman of Samruk-Kazyna, a national well-being fund, Umirzak Shukeyev to Atyrau, he wondered what will the base be used for at calm times, as spills and accidents do not happen every day.
Then, managers of TenizService said they had been thinking of this too and suggested using it as a logistics center.
In a word, it is quite possible that the top power has wisely chosen to extend the base functions by giving it to the ministry of emergency, rather than making it another passive source of income for Kazmunaygas that would get money from the North Caspian Project for lease.
Here is another critical question - how and who will provide advanced equipment to the base? As they said after failure to establish an engineering center the budget had no money for that.
As Bozhko confessed at the Mazhilis sitting, the ministry's divisions "faced a great many challenges getting technical equipment: on appropriate equipment at the Caspian shelf, I would say, we have no well-kill equipment and vessels to kill wells at the sea."
Hopefully, most of the things will clear up in June, when Mr Bozhko visits the base during an oil spill response drill that will be arranged by NCOC and Agip KCO.