The launching of multi-client seismic survey in the Bay within the current year has become uncertain as the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs recently sent back the relevant file to the Energy Ministry for further review of its tender process about selecting a firm for the job.The Cabinet committee, a highest decision making body, also formed a high-powered 5-member committee headed by Law Minister Anisul Huq to do the review job, according to official sources.Official sources said the Cabinet Economic Affairs Committee had to take the decision for further review in its meeting on August 3 after facing a stiff opposition from one of its very senior members.According to sources at the Cabinet body meeting, the senior Cabinet Minister was expressing his resentment as to why an UK-based firm was disqualified at the evaluation stage.
As a result, the Cabinet body has to consider his request to send back the file for further scrutiny.The idea of multi-client survey is that the selected firm will conduct survey in the country’s maritime boundary at its own cost. But after completion of the survey it will share its findings with state-owned Petrobangla.But the company will have a right to sell the findings and seismic data to aspirant international oil companies who want to participate in oil and gas exploration in the Bangladesh territory.The Energy Ministry moved for this process because of its cash shortage.Energy industry now believes that after such a decision by the Cabinet body, the whole process has become very complex and it will be very difficult for the Energy Ministry to complete the process of awarding the contract to its selected firm shortly.”The decision will totally dismantle its plan to appoint an international seismic survey company to start its job within the coming dry season,” said an insider of the energy sector.However, Petrobangla chairman Ishtiak Ahmed, who is also a member of the review committee, told UNB that he is still confident to complete the review process very shortly and appoint a bidder for the job within the targeted timeframe. The Energy Ministry originally set a target to appoint a firm by August so that the firm can start its job immediately to utilise the dry season—October to February—to conduct its survey in the country’s maritime boundary.As per the plan, it invited tender “2D Non-Exclusive Multi-Client Seismic Survey” and received proposals from five international companies. After evaluation, Norway-based Tomlinson Geophysical Services Inc & Schlumberger emerged to be 1st qualified bidder for the job.The other four bidders are China’s BGP, DMNG and Marine Arctic Geological Expedition (MAGE) from Russia, and UK-Based Spec Partners Ltd along with Sinopec and US-based Geotrace.Officials said that among them the UK-based company was dropped from the process at the initial stage of the bid evaluation because of its non-compliance with tender terms.Against the decision of the evaluation committee, the UK firm lodged complaint and also informed a Cabinet committee member.This is the second time for Petrobangla to invite such bids as the Prime Minister’s Office cancelled the first bidding process in 2015.Officials said the government decided to go for a multi-client survey company in order to acquire data on the prospective hydrocarbon deposits in the country’s newly undisputed maritime territories, following a decision of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).Non-availability of this data was proving a stumbling block to a number of attempts by the government to award contracts to the IOCs for the country’s deep sea blocks.