In what is being described as a reckless and illegal act, Foreign Minister of Guyana, Carl Greenidge, disclosed on Thursday that the Venezuelan navy attempted to land a chopper on a survey vessel contracted by US oil major ExxonMobil, while it was operating in Guyana waters.
At the time, 70 persons were onboard the 104.2 m Bahamas flag-carrying vessel – the Ramform Tethys.
On Saturday, December 22, vessels under contract with ExxonMobil affiliate Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Ltd. were intercepted by the Venezuelan navy in the western portion of the 6.6 million acres Stabroek Block.
“A reckless attempt was made by the Venezuelans to land a helicopter on the deck of one of them, the Ramform Tethys,” the Foreign Minister said.
The vessel was eventually allowed to proceed east of the area where it was intercepted in the Stabroek Block. It was not detained but operations in that section of the block was paused following the incident.
Venezuela and Guyana are engaged in a decades-long border controversy which is now engaging the attention of the International Court of Justice.
Following ExxonMobil’s 2015 Liza discovery, Venezuela intensified and expanded its territorial claim over Guyana, which includes large swathes of maritime waters off the country’s coast.
Guyana has since lodged a formal complaint with the United Nations over what it has described as an “illegal, aggressive and hostile act” perpetrated by the Government of Venezuela.