HOVENSA refinery closure USVI’s ‘worst nightmare’
ST. CROIX, US Virgin Islands, Thursday, February 2, 2012 — The sudden announcement last month that thousands of United States Virgin Islands residents would be on the breadline from the middle of this month has pushed the island government into crisis mode.
While not disclosing any details, government officials are assuring the public that the it has a plan to assist the thousands of people who will lose their jobs when the HOVENSA oil refinery, the largest in the Caribbean, closes.
However, Labour Department Commissioner Albert Bryan Jr. has been candid in his assessment of what the closure of the refining operations of the plant – a joint venture between the Hess Corporation and Petroleos de Venezuela SA – will mean for the USVI.
“Our worst nightmare is now a reality, and the serious implications for the Virgin Islands, especially the island of St Croix, is cause for grave concern,” said Bryan. “This event will affect every man, woman and child in the territory as its implications are far-reaching.”
The closure of the refinery, which is the largest employer in the territory, will mean the termination of employment for 1,018 employees, and up to 1,200 who work for HOVENSA’s contractors.
It could mean an additional 10 percent of the territory’s workforce is put out of work, and raising St Croix’s unemployment rate to 18.7 percent.
After formal shutdown of the refinery, most of those employed at HOVENSA will continue working through a transition period. Thereafter, approximately 100 people will remain to work at the oil storage terminal.
Bryan said the USVI was resilient, and would work together to forge ahead.
“When serious crisis strikes, we always pull together for the greater good of our people,” he said.
Officials at the refinery, which is one of the 10 largest in the world, announced last month that losses totalling US$1.3 billion in the past three years, and which were projected to continue, were the major reason for the closure.