Guyana plans to lodge complaint with UN over ‘illegal, hostile interception’ of ExxonMobil vessel by Venezuelan navy

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The Ramform Tethys survey vessel

Guyana said on Saturday evening that it will be lodging a formal complaint with the United Nations over what it described as an “illegal, aggressive and hostile act” perpetrated by the Government of Venezuela which saw the interception of a vessel contracted by ExxonMobil to conduct a seismic survey in Guyana waters.

ExxonMobil affiliate Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Ltd said on Saturday that it is in communication with the necessary authorities and that its concern is for the safety of the crew of the research vessel, the Ramform Tethys. “At this time, seismic operations on the Stabroek Block offshore Guyana have been paused until they can be safely continued,” the company’s Senior Director, Public and Government Affairs, Deedra Moe, said.

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The Bahamas flag-carrying vessel was intercepted by the Venezuelan navy at 10.30 hours on Saturday December 22, 2018 and had a total of seventy crew members on board including the Captain.

“The vessel was intercepted in the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana at a position of N 09 deg 17.19 min / W 058 deg 16.20 min at an approximate distance of 140 Km from the nearest point to the provisional equidistant line with Venezuela,” Guyana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge, said in a statement aired on the National Communications Network.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Greenidge said, “rejects this illegal, aggressive and hostile act perpetrated by the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela which once again demonstrates the real threat to Guyana’s economic development by its western neighbor; an act that violates the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country.”

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The Foreign Minister added that “this latest act of illegality and blatant disrespect for Guyana’s sovereignty by Venezuela” will be brough to the attention of the United Nations. Guyana is also in the process of informing the several Governments of the seventy crew members of the threat to their safety.

The Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela will also receive formal communication from the Government of Guyana on this matter, Mr. Greenidge stated.

This latest act by Venezuela is part of an ongoing trend of aggression towards its English speaking neighbour.  On October 10, 2013 the Venezuelan Navy seized the MV Teknik Perdana which was conducting a survey for Anadarko in Guyana waters.

The vast area west of the Essequibo River makes up two-thirds of the territory of Guyana. It has been claimed by Venezuela as its own since the 19th Century, when Guyana was still a British colony. The international arbitral award of October 1899 settled the Venezuelan claim, firmly defining the disputed territory as belonging to Guyana.

In court filings against Venezuela, Guyana has asked the ICJ to declare that the Bolivarian Republic immediately withdraw from the eastern half of Ankoko Island and refrain from threatening or using force against companies, reminiscent of the Teknik Perdana seizure.

Venezuela’s claim on Guyana’s territory has intensified since ExxonMobil made its first world class discovery at the Liza field in the 6.6 million acres Stabroek Block where more than 5 billion barrels of oil have since been found.