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Cuba issues new customs rules to spur offshore drilling

03-14-2012 11:22 BJT

HAVANA, March 13 (Xinhua) -- Cuba has announced new customs regulations in a bid to boost offshore oil drilling in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the Gulf of Mexico, according to Tuesday's Official Gazette.

The new rules which regulate personnel, goods and vehicles involved in oil exploration activities, were signed into law by Customs Chief Admiral Pedro Perez Betancourt and would take effect Thursday, it said.

The move was part of the Caribbean island nation's endeavor to revive the economy and become self-sufficient in energy.

The new rules were supposed to boost foreign investments in oil sector as Spanish oil firm Repsol-YPF is going ahead with its drilling operations for its first deepwater well in Cuba's EEZ in the Gulf, 50 km northwest of the capital city of Havana. The Operations began in mid-January with the positioning of the Chinese-made oil platform Scarabeo 9.

Cuba's EEZ covers an area of 112 square kilometers divided into 59 blocks for prospection.

Cuban authorities claim to have rich oil reserves of more than 20 billion barrels in the northern waters of the Gulf, while the U.S. Geological Service estimates a more modest figure of 5 billion barrels, although its study did not cover the entire Cuban zone.

In addition to Spain's Repsol-YPF, several other foreign companies have expressed an interest in operating in the region, including Venezuela's PDVSA, PetroVietnam, and Norway's Statoil.

Cuba's oil offshore drilling plan in Gulf waters has irked the United States, which raised security and environmental concerns.

Cuba now produces about four million tons of oil and gas each year, but that amount covers only half of the nation's domestic need. The rest is imported from Venezuela. In exchange, Cuba provides professional health and educational services for Venezuela.

Editor:Wang Lingfei |Source: Xinhua

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