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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (January 2, 2001 - PIDP/CPIS)--British Petroleum (BP) became the interim terminal operator of the government-owned Gataivai Tank Farm on January 1, according to Petroleum Officer Sione Kava.

The agreement was signed by the government’s Acting Chief Procurement Officer Pat Tervola last Thursday before it was routed for other required signatures.

Everything then was finalized last Friday afternoon, just 72 hours before the December 31 deadline and Tesoro’s departure from the local market.

Tesoro surprised the government last November with a sudden announcement that it would pull out of American Samoa completely. This prompted the government to approach BP and Mobil Oil about running the Gataivai Tank Farm.

Kava said on Friday that the government had received firm confirmation that BP would take over as the interim terminal operator at the start of the New Year, January 1. He also confirmed that the U.S. Coast Guard had approved BP’s environmental impact statement and a plan to handle oil spills.

Although the agreements have been signed, Kava said a federal district court in San Francisco will still need to give final approval, which could come sometime this week.

"At this point we are confident that the federal court will grant approval," said Kava.

"The Governor is pleased that we were able to put everything together so quickly in light of Tesoro’s announcement," the Governor’s legal counsel, Henry Kappel, said.

BP’s local manager, Alo Dr. Paul Stevenson, could not be reached for comment. But sources said BP will absorb, as part of the agreement, about 20 Tesoro employees.

Taulapapa Will Sword, former Tesoro manager, will take over as Tank Farm manager for BP.

Terms of the agreement between BP and the government are not immediately known.

Kava said a possible BP and Mobile joint venture to manage and operate the Tank Farm in the future will be discussed again before March 31, 2001, which was the original date of Tesoro’s planned pull-out, before it was suddenly rolled back three months.

If the joint venture goes through, which also requires federal court approval, it is expected that BP would take over for three years and Mobile would follow for the second three years.

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