14 October 2013, News Wires – Long-running border tensions escalated on Friday when Guyana’s foreign ministry said the Venezuela navy took an “unprecedented” step of stopping an oil and gas survey vessel working offshore.
The RV Teknik Perdana was working for Anadarko conducting seismic work in the Roraima block, where the US independent won an exploration concession in 2012 as previously reported by Upstream.
On Thursday the Venezuelan naval vessel Yekuana was reported to be “trailing” the survey boat, then “obstructed the research vessel’s passage, requested them to change course and stop surveying,” according to a statement from Guyana’s foreign ministry.
The survey vessel was in Guyana’s exclusive economic zone, the ministry asserted.
“At approximately 20:30, the crew of the RV Teknik Perdana was instructed to increase speed to 7 knots and was given directions to sail to the island of Margarita in Venezuela,” the statement continued.
“It was then clear that the vessel and its crew were not only being escorted out of Guyana’s waters, but were under arrest,” the statement said.
The vessel, owned by TL Geohydrographics of Singapore, is believed to have at least five US nationals on board, according to wire reports.
Anadarko is “fully cooperating with the Government of Guyana, the US Coast Guard and embassy personnel in an effort to achieve the safe release of the crew and vessel,” a company spokesman said, but referred further details to survey company TDI-Brooks International.
“The government of Guyana is of the firm belief that the actions taken by the Venezuelan navy vessel constitute a serious threat to the peace of this sub-region and the Government of Guyana therefore strongly condemns these actions,” the statement continued.
Venezuela’s Petroleum Minister Rafael Ramirez told journalists in Caracas the country’s government was looking into reports of the events, according to the news wire.
Upstream reported last June that Venezuela, which claims as its own a swath of 159,000 square kilometres of the Essequibo area in question, had put in place a naval patrol to safeguard against encroachment from oil and gas activities in Guyana.
Schoolroom maps typically show vast parts of Guyana as areas of the country’s long-nursed “Reclamation Zone”.
Nationalists and opposition politicians in Venezuela claim that Guyanese oil concessions held by companies like ExxonMobil threaten to block Venezuela from its Atlantic doorway, and have pressed the nation to be more aggresive in disputing the maritime border.
Before his death, however, President Hugo Chavez had refused to bow to local pressure to stem Guyana’s offshore ambitions, with Venezuela even selling oil to its neighbour under preferential terms.