Future of oil and the maritime industries discussion hijacked?

Dear Editor,
A rather unusual event took place on Wednesday, March 27, 2019 – one that raised several questions in my mind.
I am referring to the “Guyana’s New Maritime Landscape, preparing for the future” conference, which was hosted by the Hughes, Fields and Stoby law firm and Cerulean Master Card under the rubric of the Guyana Maritime Administration at the Marriott Hotel.
The invitation which was dispatched to many people by Nigel Hughes on behalf of Hughes Fields and Stoby advised that:
“Guyana’s national efforts to prepare for the advent of the commercial production of oil have necessitated a revisit of our existing legal and regulatory framework for several industries and particularly for the maritime industry.
“The current legal and regulatory maritime framework is inadequate for the development of the oil and gas industry which is upon us.
“In order to meet this challenge, the Maritime Authority of Guyana (MARAD) has determined that it will host a conference on the 27th March 2019 at the Marriot where it hopes to benefit from the contributions of the stakeholders in the maritime industry as it sets about the task of crafting draft laws and regulations for the new maritime regime….
“The conference will address four themes namely: Legal and institutional considerations to enhance governance of Guyana’s maritime industry, Industry best practices among the oil majors for self-regulation, Lessons learnt and new rules and regulations for enforcement.”
One should remember that in September 2018, the same firm at the launching of its office in Houston, Texas, said: “Long before a potential investor even arrives in Guyana, the law offices of Hughes, Fields and Stoby will now be on hand in Houston, Texas, to guide clients through what could be a complex process of establishing business relationships in Guyana…From legal representation right through to assistance with the appropriate business protocols and linkage to a network of officials in the public and Private Sector, a client’s every need is attended to in ensuring the doors to doing business in Guyana are easily and readily open.”
So the first set of questions relate to the organisation and funding of the conference.
Why was the Guyana Maritime Administration not taking the lead in inviting people, even on their website there is no information about the conference nor its agenda, just the announcement?
Why was Hughes, Fields and Stoby the “producer of the event” as stated on the flyer?
Who was paying for the conference and the presenters – Regional Adviser, Caribbean, Colin Young; International Maritime Organisation, Vivian Rambarath-Parasram; Programme Leader, Maritime Studies of University of Trinidad and Tobago, Professor Eric Smith; Professor of Practice at the AB Freeman School of Business at Tulane University, Eric Smith; Thomas Steigerwald, Maritime consultant and Retired Rear Admiral, United States Coast Guard, James Olson? Did the other companies named in the conference document – Guyana Shore Base Inc, Global Maritime Consultants Group, and GAICO contribute to the funding? Who paid Hughes Fields and Stoby to produce this Maritime conference? Certainly, l do not think MARAD could have had the money to do so. The second set of questions relate to policy-making.
“The Vision” in the conference brochure is written by CA Nigel Hughes as Managing Partner of Hughes Fields and Stoby. The fact that the vision had no vision is not surprising, but here is the vision being propagated by a gentleman who is representing the interests of the oil investors, and whose wife is a Minister. A conflict of interest situation which was exposed over six months ago but which the Government has ignored.
One wonders whether the Government has relinquished or parcelled out policy-making of our national concerns and interests to Nigel Hughes, Managing Partner of a company that is facilitating and benefiting financially from the oil interests.
Who is representing Guyana’s interests? Or will we be seeing a repetition of the 2016 secret agreement?
Why was the Foreign Affairs Ministry not present as there are Maritime issues with regards to our international treaty obligations as well as specific concerns with regards to our maritime boundaries and the oil sector?
Furthermore, why was the selection of the local panellists restricted to their affiliation to only two law firms and one political party?
Why were local companies which are involved in the maritime industry and other stakeholders in this sector not included as panellists? One wonders after examining this line-up at the conference if the draft local content policy touted by the Government is just another window dressing.
Finally, has the discussion on the future of oil and the maritime industries now being hijacked to special interests and not national interests?

Darion Comacho