18 DECEMBER 2002
By David Lindsay
The event launching the Malta External Trade Corporations newly opened representative office in the United Arab Emirates was a notable occasion, not just for the opening of a trade centre in the important export and re-export centre, but in other respects as well.
In fact, the event provided the Maltese and UAE authorities with a good opportunity to rub shoulders and discuss a number of potential avenues of co-operation between the countries.
During his meeting with the UAE Minister of Economy and Finance, Economic Services Minister Josef Bonnici brought up the possibility of direct oil imports from the UAE and UAE investment in Maltese bunkering activities as two possible areas for future contact between the two countries.
While the subjects were mentioned in passing, according to a spokesperson for the Ministry, they both provide for interesting future prospects.
The direct purchase of oil from the UAE could present an interesting option for investigation, as the development would potentially provide a new alternative to Maltas current oil supply options.
Profs. Bonnici is quoted as saying, "Now, 50 per cent of our [oil] requirements are met from Libya, which is very close to us geographically, and the rest from the spot market. Through this route, some crude from the Gulf could have been imported.
"However, direct oil imports from the UAE could be something which we can look to develop. We are very open to any suggestions. Bunkering, where we have strengths, is another sector where the two countries can develop interests."
Indeed, a possible UAE investment in Maltas bunkering sector could impact in no small way the upcoming privatisation of Mediterranean Offshore Bunkering Co. Ltd.
As a Ministry spokesperson commented to The Malta Financial and Business Times yesterday, "If there were to be a confirmation of UAE interest in investment in oil bunkering in Malta, than this would certainly be relevant to the privatisation of MOBC."
But while the two subjects were raised by the respective ministers
during their meeting in general terms, the areas of co-operation still
need to be pursued actively by the both sides.