The Greek authorities officially announced the 2014 offshore exploration bidding round for 20 offshore blocks in the Ionian Sea and on the South of Crete in a conference that took place in London earlier this summer, with the support of the Greek Energy Forum. As expected, this event was received with great levels of excitement. The various publications in the aftermath of this event however did not highlight the display of commitment from the Greek authorities in on this endeavour, which has been also an achievement in itself for a country looking to re-enter the international hydrocarbon exploration arena. The clarity of the structure of the announced bidding round, along with the announcement of a well-defined timeline and coupled with an authoritative delivery to the audience, set the ground for a successful bidding round.
The developments following this event have not failed to maintain this momentum. Demonstrating commitment to the announced targets, the hydrocarbon exploration tenders have been signed for publication within August 2014, following the announced timeline to the letter and gaining thus credibility points in the market. Nevertheless, we still have a long way to go before this bidding round can be branded as a success, but such developments build trust.
This is not to say that oil companies are not familiar with delays in such complex processes. But, at any given point, a number of countries with potential hydrocarbon reserves compete for attracting exploration investments, and this case is no different. Provided Greece's geographic location, its membership in the EU and the single currency, any potential hydrocarbon exploration investment will likely be viewed as a long-term strategic position. This implies that the existence of a robust commercial environment, or in its absence, a credible plan for achieving it, will be a central value differentiator in securing such investments over any competing opportunities.
This is a challenge but also a great opportunity for Greece. The first steps have been taken very successfully, but as we are getting closer to the point where the success of this bidding round will be out of the hands of the Greek authorities and into those of the industry, the next steps become equally important and should not be overlooked.
Cross-Ministerial collaboration will now become critical in constructing the picture of the next day. The potential investors will have to be persuaded of the existence of a well thought and structured long term plan for supporting their commercial operations, promoting public and private investments in infrastructure and services wherever needed, and encouraging the alignment of the higher education with the requirements of the industry. Injecting this way confidence in their long term economic projections, while building a structure which will also support the growth of peripheral industries such as those of shipping, manufacture, energy as well as research and development.