The government is looking to purchase an expensive research vessel for use in the Bay of Bengal even though will only be needed for a single seismic survey.
The Bangladesh Oil, Gas and Mineral Corporation (Petrobangla) has started the process of acquiring a multi-role offshore survey and research vessel at a cost of approximately Tk1,200 crore.
“We have already invited Expressions of Interest (EoIs) from a selection of a ship builders and owners for delivering a vessel for seismic exploration, geological and oceanographic purposes, to be deployed in the Bay of Bengal,” Petrobangla Director Jameel A Aleem told the Dhaka Tribune recently.
The vessel will be acquired under the Speedy Supply of Power and Energy (Special Provision) Act, 2010, which is generally applied to purchases that are of immediate need and enjoys various immunities, including avoiding government tenders.
To oversee the ship procurement process, state-owned Petrobangla has finalised the appointment of a German consultancy firm, Technolog Services, in a deal worth Tk25 crore.
However, sources said the vessel was originally supposed to be bought by the state-run Geological Survey of Bangladesh (GSB).
“After settling maritime boundary disputes with Myanmar and India, the Energy Ministry instructed the GSB to procure the vessel,” a Petrobangla official said, requesting anonymity. “Since GSB sat idle, Petrobangla has been instructed to acquire the ship.”
The official said Petrobangla initiated proceedings to buy the ship after failing for three years to appoint an international seismic survey firm to prospect for hydrocarbons in the Bay of Bengal.
He said: “After failing to do a multi client seismic survey through the tender system in three years, purchasing the vessel has now become a priority. But the logic of needing a vessel to do a multi client seismic survey is rather tenuous.”
The official said the Blue Economy cell was formed to explore, collect, conserve and manage the natural and mineral resources within Bangladesh’s Bay of Bengal region.
“That cell is responsible for looking after the issue (so) if they need a vessel, they can also buy it,” he said. “Besides, the National Maritime Institute can also buy this vessel to do their research work. But for Petrobangla this will become a burden.”
The Petrobangla official lamented a lack of efficient manpower even to do the seismic survey: “There is a shortage of manpower so it will just be sort of a showpiece.”
Professor Badrul Imam of the Geology Department at Dhaka University said Petrobangla has to make long-term plans so that the vessel does not “sit idle”.
“It will be a joke if the vessel is bought as substitute for a multi-client seismic survey,” he said. “At this moment, doing the survey after buying the vessel is a foolish idea. The task is not only just to do seismic survey but also to be able to interpret that information. Does Petrobangla have the necessary preparation to do that?”
After buying the vessel, increasing manpower could lead to a positive outcome, but this can take five to ten years, he added.
Petrobangla is looking for a vessel that is under construction or has been newly constructed but not used, or used for not more than five years.
The ship builder or owner must supply the ship within a maximum of 12 months, if new, or a maximum 10 months if already in use. The deadline for EoI submissions is August 16, 2017.
When asked why they have kept an option of procuring a used ship, the Petrobangla director replied: “It’s a decision made by the higher authorities.”
According to EoI documents, the multi-role offshore survey and research vessel will be highly advanced, with a modern mono-hull and integrated diesel-electric propulsion.
It will be ideally suited to perform seismic surveys, and geotechnical, oceanographic, geophysical and hydrographic surveys from coastal bays and estuaries to beyond the continental shelf in the Bay of Bengal.
The vessel will be 100m in length with a beam/breadth of about 20m and a draft of about 6.50m.
The ship builders and owners will be shortlisted based on experience. The qualification criteria will be assessed from the documentation submitted with the application, together with verification as deemed necessary for builders, and a minimum 20 years of experience in designing and constructing vessels.
In the case of joint venture partnerships, each partner of the consortium should have a minimum of 20 years (for builders) experience in design and construction of vessels.