Given our general level of interests in Maritime boundaries on this blog, We thought we would let our readers know that the UNLOS council has handed down a decision on the Maritime boundary between Guyana and Suriname.
The dispute has been the source of considerable friction between the two countries with a Suriname gunboat chasing off an oil exploration bid authorised by the Guyana Government. It would seem that the tribunal sided with Guyana over Suriname’s claims.
In a unanimous vote, the five-judge panel from the Arbitral Tribunal under the Law of the Sea Convention decided to split thousands of square kilometres of offshore blocs largely on the principle of “equidistance”, but in doing so, it took away a large tract of water that Suriname had claimed as its own for decades from neighbouring Guyana…..
…..In June 2000, Suriname’s Ronald Venetiaan administration sent gunboats to expel a rig that was drilling in the disputed area. The rig was leased by Toronto-based CGX Energy Inc, one of the world’s tiniest oil companies, on a concession award granted by Guyana.
The incident brought the two finance-starved former European colonies very close to war, with both massing troops on their borders and allowing military aircraft to over-fly each other’s airspace in a near farcical show of force by two armies with a combined total of no more than 5,000 troops and with less than a dozen planes and vessels under their command.
We’ve downloaded the judgement (If you are interested its available here)
and we are taking our time going through it. This border dispute has been the focus of bi-lateral and multilateral efforts under Caricom to resolve it. Due to the UN it has now been settled once and for all. This clears the way for Oil exploration on both sides of the line. Hopefully this will lead to significant oil finds as few would disagree with me that both Guyana and Suriname are in desperate need of cash.
The news story did have one rather thought provoking point to close on….
Critics, Caricom experts especially, had noted that the intransigence displayed by Suriname and the failure of the two to reach a bilateral deal have cost them billions in revenues as oil prices continue to soar.
Food for thought there….
An interesting story has been making the rounds of the news recently, about a recent audit of Trinidad and Tobago’s natural gas reserves that showed a sharper than expected drop.
The Trinidad and Tobago Government is expected to release details of its latest natural gas audit by mid-month following newspaper reports that the Houston-based audit consultant, Ryder Scott, found an 11 per cent decline in the country’s natural gas reserves.
The article continues….
Energy Minister, Dr. Lenny Saith, does not appear worried by the natural gas audit report. He seems focused on increasing natural gas production to meet increasing demand over the next eight years.
Government is encouraging energy companies to pursue an aggressive exploratory programme in deep water, as well as land and near shore areas to ensure that new supplies of gas are found to meet the huge gas demand of a new model of downstream industries which will include petrochemicals, plastics and metals.
This is interesting given that Trinidad’s claimed territorial area has been greatly reduced by the recent UNLOS decision. The graphic below show’s what Trinidad claimed as it’s border before Barbados took the matter to the UN.
The orange line in the gray area shows the border claimed by Trinidad during the arbitration. The graphic below shows the Maritime space that Trinidad has after the UN decision.
It’s fairly clear that the Maritime space has been significantly curtailed by the UNLOS decision. What this means is that the potential areas for exploration have been significantly reduced. This begs the question, precisely how much Gas does Trinidad have in reserve? At one point projections were for 20 years, some opposition figures have placed the figure as low as 9 years (however it should be stressed that this interpretation is open to debate).
Small wonder that the IMF in it’s recent Article IV consultation urged the Port of Spain Government to diversify it’s economy away from petroleum. It’s also not clear how this information affects the proposed construction of a natural gas pipeline between Barbados and Trinidad.
The billion dollar question is…. How much time does Trinidad have before it runs out of gas?
After much song and dance, an involvement of UN Law of the Sea tribunals. Barbados and Trinidad are finally showing movement towards a fishing agreement.
Barbados and Tobago have agreed that a fish stock assessment in the waters between the islands be undertaken by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).
This after ten hours of intense first round discussions between high-powered teams from both islands on how to go about the fish stock assessment. The meeting was held at the Mt Irvine Bay Hotel on Tuesday. Tobago was represented by a nine-member team led by Agriculture, Marine Affairs, Marketing and the Environment Secretary Hilton Sandy while the Barbados eight-member team was led by Sir Henry Forde, former Attorney General and Foreign Affairs Minister. Both teams included executive members of their island’s respective fisherfolk associations.
While fish were what kicked the whole boundary dispute off, as you can see from previous articles (
the whole mess had it’s genesis elsewhere.
While most Barbadians seem to be aware that the dispute was never just about fish, if you talk to most Trinis, they still seem to think that this was all about the fish and nothing else. Further there is a firm belief in certain quarters of Trinidad that they “won” the dispute and that Barbados was soundly “beaten”.
Having read the judgment I’d beg to differ with that position. However let’s hope that we do end up with a fishing agreement out of this.
At least then the little guy would have gotten something out of this whole mess.
The UNLOS dispute tribunal has come and gone and it’s decision has been made, however one of the root causes of the dispute stems from a treaty between Venezuela and Trinidad agreeing a maritime border. This treaty (if you are interested in the details) is available on line Here:
Now the reasons for a treaty between Venezuela and Trinidad are perfectly logical. The treaty would allow the exploitation of the oil expected to be found in the area. And the successful exploitation of these resources is what underpins much of today’s Trinidadian economy. The boundary agreed by the treaty is shown in the graphic.
However have a look at where the Guyana Venezuela border is…..
The only way that Venezuela could lay any claim to the eastermost part of the line set out in the treaty would be to operate on the basis of it’s claim of all of Guyana west of the Essiquibo River. Now the Venezuelans were consistent in their claim on this, but what is surprising here is that Trinidad would have known full well that in signing this treaty they were validating the Venezuelan’s claim, but they agreed anyway.
Now this treaty opened the door for offshore exploration of the offshore oil fields, and the Trinidadians pushed their claim further to the north to what is indicated as a purple line on the chart. This apparently went unchallenged by both Barbados and Guyana at the time. However the chain of events that started the whole UNLOS dispute, has it’s genesis in the Venezuelan/Guyanese border dispute.
And I bet that you always thought it was about fish….