Production is reported to have re-started at the Petrofac plant on the Kerkennah islands after the company had originally declared that it was pulling out of Tunisia entirely.
Materials transport and production resumed last night at Petrofac’s Chergui Gas Facility after the conclusion of intense negotiations over the future and development Kerkennah. This follows eight months of disagreements, violent protests and disruption of production by local people fighting for a wide range of social issues.
Last Friday (23 September) an agreement was finally struck between the local community and the government. The Union of Unemployed Graduates (UDC) and the General Workers Union (UGTT) were present during the negotiations to map out a investment and development plan for the islands of Kerkennah.
The Petrofac plant on Kerkennah became the battle ground between residents and authorities as locals made the plant the focus of their anger. Local Coordinator for the Union of Unemployed Graduates, Ahmed Souissi told Tunisia Live that, although Petrofac has provided Kerkennah with “156 direct jobs” it’s presence on the Kerkennah archipelago had impacted on tourism and created tensions, “The problems have been pollution from the gas facility and petrol on the beach, which has impacted on the local eco-tourism industry.”
Negotiations have concluded with the promise of grants, investments and development plans to benefit the local economy of the island. Speaking to Tunisia Live Soussi said, “The unemployed have been working, but without a legal framework, without working contracts and without stability. This has been the case since 2011.” The government has promised 5million TDN to address these issues over the course of three years beginning in 2017.
An investment grant has also been agreed for the local fishing industry to address issues of productivity and safety. This includes a 30million TDN investment into the port of Sidi Youssef. Other plans are improvements of ports, creating boarding facilities that eliminate wading to boats, emergency services for injured sailors and a fish market to enable the wholesale distribution of fish.
The Tunisian National Gas and Oil Company ETAP has pledged 2.5million TDN to create a service company that will deliver infrastructure projects, such as roads and municipal works for the island. The capital from ETAP will pay salaries and provide materials to enable works to start improvements. ETAP is also founding a center providing professional training for future skilled petrochemical industry workers.
In addition there are plans for investing in the local youth with a sports center. Souissi said: “The youth are very talented but there is not infrastructure to nurture this.”
Souissi also announced that there will be an investigation into Petrofac over allegations of corruption. Proceedings will be undertaken by the Superior Court Against Corruption, conducted by lawyer Chawki Tbib.