Offshore Rig Import Duties Canceled

The government has abolished for two years import duties and customs taxes for offshore drilling rigs temporarily imported for exploration work, it said Tuesday.

The measure is the first step toward a long-discussed reduction of taxes for energy companies exploring offshore fields, which are expected to contain massive oil and gas reserves but are more expensive to develop than onshore fields.

The government said it had canceled customs duties and taxes for offshore rigs to be rented by a Russian citizen from a foreign owner for five months.

The government has also been discussing the idea of mineral resource tax breaks to develop offshore fields -- a benefit similar to that introduced last year for eastern Siberia.

Among the companies most interested in the benefits are state-controlled majors Rosneft and Gazprom, which are developing major projects off Sakhalin Island.