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Energy, Ambition, Vision and Success in Curaçao

Curoil N.V. celebrated its 25th anniversary in style at the start of November with an exceptional international conference that brought together in Curaçao not only many of its domestic and foreign customers and trading partners but also provided a fascinating new take on the various energy markets in which the company operates. While bunker and aviation fuels are the mainstay of Curoil’s activities, utility fuels, electricity, water and even wind power were deftly brought into this unique and highly satisfying conference programme. Subtitled New opportunities, growing markets, extraordinary potential, the conference succeeded in a way that other events rarely do, by introducing new topics to delegates who may not have known much about them beforehand. For example, the bunker-related delegates enjoyed hearing about the aviation industry, while the aviation delegates enjoyed hearing about bunkering, refining and the other subjects covered. Gensley Capella, Managing Director of Curoil, introduced and spoke at several points during the conference, always exuding the friendliness of Curoil while cleverly portraying the company’s vision, ambition, challenges and the many successes that have been registered over the past 25 years. The exceptional Master of Ceremonies for the opening of the conference, radio host and local media magnate, Orlando Cuales, introduced the new Prime Minister of Curaçao, Gerrit Schotte, to deliver the keynote speech. In the audience were some 150 bunker and aviation executives from 18 different countries, as well as leading politicians, bankers and industrialists from the region. The Prime Minister paid tribute to the huge contribution made by Curoil to the local economy but pinpointed the future of the island’s sole refinery as one of the single most important challenges that needs to be addressed. Elected leader of the coalition government on 10 October, the day that Curaçao ceased to be part of the Netherlands Antilles and started life as a standalone country, the Prime Minister said that Curaçao must plan ahead and not only consider the future of the refinery until 2019, the year in which the current lease with refinery operator Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) ends. He said that the country must look beyond 2019 and consider the options for the plant which has been closed and then operating well below capacity for months, forcing Curoil to look elsewhere for supplies, particularly of some products such as low sulphur diesel. Curaçao’s almost complete dependence on Venezuela has long been a major issue and the future of the refinery will now be made a priority issue for the new government. The first main session of the conference looked at the bigger picture, outlining what Curoil does, how it works and what the future holds. Dr Emsley D. Tromp, President of the Central Bank of Curaçao and St. Maarten followed, detailing how well Curaçao has fared during the worldwide recession and providing his own take on the viability of the financial institutions, as well as the viability and stability of the local petroleum industry. Robert Holt Atkinson, Managing Director of bunker broking firm KPI Bridge Oil Inc. Americas, provided an overview of shipping and bunkering, with a look at upcoming environmental regulations and the commercial challenges and opportunities that these may bring. For the bunker-oriented delegates, the next speaker, Simone Wickenhagen, General Manager of KLM & Martinair for the Caribbean, Suriname & Guyana, provided a fascinating insight into how the airlines are struggling to guarantee consistency, continuity and profitability in unpredictable markets and uncertain environmental conditions. Joining the panel, Marcelino R.J. de Lannoy, Managing Director of the Curaçao Port Authority, provided his personal views on what had been presented. In the third session, Keith Richardson, Global Business Development Manager of bunker supplier Chemoil Energy, looked at how as a single supplier for sourcing, shipping, storage, blending and delivery, a company like Chemoil can add value for buyers by helping to reduce risk and exposure. Dave Schongar, Director of Government Programmes at Multi Service Corporation, explained how the adoption of electronic transactions can significantly reduce risk and increase efficiency of suppliers and buyers in both the bunker and aviation industries. The first full day of conference ended with a fascinating boat trip along the coast from the Grand Hyatt to Willemstad, the port and the Isla oil refinery. This was followed not only by a spectacular gala dinner that highlighted the culture and music of Curaçao, but also by a devastating storm which caused mayhem on the island overnight. The second day of the conference was disrupted by the storm, forcing a change in schedule as Anthon Casperson, CEO of local electricity and water company Aqualectra first spoke about the challenges of running such a utility company before dashing away to head up the operation to restore electric supply to many parts of the island and to join in the cleanup operation. Luis Felipe de Oliveira, Regional Director of Commercial Fuel Services for airline association IATA, gave a thorough account of the costs involved in aviation fuels and how these are impacted by new policies. The formal sessions of the conference ended with the showing of a specially-produced film, The Mystery of the Gasoline Truck, which both captivated and amused the audience and served to underline Curoil’s commitment to the energy industry, to the island of Curaçao and to its people. Curoil’s 25th Anniversary conference was a stunning success, only marginally dampened by one of the worst storms in the island’s recent history. It was chaired by Llewellyn Bankes-Hughes, Managing Director of Petrospot Limited, which assisted in the organisation.

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