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GSP: Fortuna Arrives in UAE

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Grup Servicii Petroliere s.a. (GSP), a Constanta, Romania-based drilling and oilfield services company, on Wednesday said that its Fortuna jackup rig is now in the harbor of Sharjah, UAE.

Recently, the rig has been the center of controversy as a result of its departure Sunday from Iranian waters. PetroIran Development Co. (PEDCO), a subsidiary of National Iranian Oil Co. (NIOC), has accused GSP of "hijacking" the rig from Iranian waters.

In an interview with Rigzone.com, GSP President Gabriel Comanescu pointed out that the contract for the Fortuna expired more than four months ago. Because the well had not reached total depth at the time, the rig was not moved immediately after the contract termination date, he explained.

"As a gesture of goodwill GSP allowed the rigs to continue its work schedule for three months since the date of termination of contract on April 1, 2006, in order to secure the well," said Comanescu. "We have managed to arrange the necessary clearance for the boats to take out one of the rigs-- Fortuna --based on a court decree from Qeshm and an implementation order from Hengam Island security forces hand-delivered to PEDCO." Qeshm and Hengam are Iranian islands in the Persian Gulf.

Another GSP rig, the Orizont jackup, is still being held in Iranian waters despite the termination of its contract as well. Comanescu said that PEDCO has for the past three months refused to issue the clearance papers for tugboats to tow it from its present location on the grounds that safety procedures first need to be completed.

"It is ridiculous that PEDCO is obstructing the clearance documents for the tugboats, and all the shipping agents are afraid to lose business from PEDCO if they cooperate with us," said Comanescu. "How can it take three months to implement safety procedures, which have not even started? We even offered that we will do the necessary safety procedures in line with international norms."

GSP said that both the Fortuna and the Orizont were hired by Dubai-based Oriental Oil Co. and, without the drilling contractor's consent, rented to PEDCO. The company had terminated the contract with Oriental on account of breach of contractual conditions—specifically, failure to open an acceptable letter of credit as security and non-payment of invoices for several months (currently exceeding US$8 million).

Denying recent allegations by PEDCO, Comanescu said that GSP has the right to take the rigs given the termination of Oriental's contract. Moreover, he said that GSP later learned that Oriental Oil Co. never existed and was never registered with the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

"PEDCO's illegal actions are clearly blatant violation(s) of all international norms, conventions, and practices," he said. "We have all intentions to take on these violations in (a) competent court of law and pursue justice." Comanescu added, however, that GSP is willing to cooperate with NIOC for a future contract—but only through a direct contract without an imposed broker.

Responding to specific claims made recently in the news media, GSP issued the following clarifications:

  • Fortuna is now in Sharjah harbor for work related to Germanischer Lloyd (GL) recertification, according to the international standards, after the termination of the contract with Oriental Oil Co. of Dubai. The departure from the location took place with full observance of all the legal provisions in force in the Islamic Republic of Iran and with the approval of the authorities.
  • The Fortuna and Orizont offshore drilling rigs, together with other assets, were bought by GSP from Petrom OMV in December 2005.
  • GSP took over Petrom, by transfer, with the agreement of all the parties involved in the lease agreement for the two rigs, with Oriental Oil Co.
  • Oriental failed to observe its contractual obligations in relation with GSP. Specifically, the company did not make the payment for the services rendered according to the agreement and accumulated debts to GSP in amount of US$17 million. Under these circumstances, GSP--according to the contractual provisions--communicated to Oriental the agreement termination. In order to recuperate the receivables, there is a file under settlement by international arbitration.
  • Oriental "seriously infringed" the contractual stipulations by transferring the entire agreement, without GSP's knowledge, to the Iranian company Oriental Oil Kish. "We are surprised to find out that Iranian companies we have no legal or contractual obligations to interfere with the Iranian instances, in detriment of GSP and make statements to the media that seriously prejudice us," stated GSP.
  • The departure of Fortuna from the Iranian waters was based upon a legal order of the Court of Qeshm Isle, Iran, given in file 85/1/290.
  • The rig was towed by a GSP-operated ship, with the agreement of the Iranian authorities, observing all the entrance and exit formalities on and from the Iranian territory. The departure from the location also took place after all the well security works had been made, according to the international standards.
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