Venezuela Detains Ship In Disputed Waters

Venezuela detained a ship operated by a US oil company while the vessel was in waters disputed by the nation and its eastern neighbor, Guyana.

The ship was chartered by TDI-Brooks International, a Texas company, and had 39 people on board at the time, including five US citizens.

ABC News reports that the ship was stopped by a Venezuelan navy vessel on Thursday and ordered to sail under escort to the nation’s Margarita Island. The Guyanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement about the situation, saying:

“It was then clear that the vessel and its crew were not only being escorted out of Guyana’s waters, but were under arrest. These actions by the Venezuelan naval vessel are unprecedented in Guyana Venezuela relations.”

The two nations have disputed ownership of the waters for more than a hundred years. Venezuelan maps have the area marked off with stripes, calling it a “Zone in Reclamation,” while Guyana considers it three-quarters of its national territory.

While the dispute has flared up over the years, Thursday’s incident was the first time another country was dragged into the middle of it, notes The New York Times. The research ship, the MV Teknik Perdana, was surveying the seafloor in preparation for possible oil exploration for the Anadarko Petroleum Corporation.

The oil company has a contract with Guyana to search for oil in the region. Guyana blasted Venezuela’s actions, calling them “a serious threat to the peace of the subregion.” The statement called on the nation to return the ship and crew.

However, the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry released a statement later on, saying the ship in question was operating in a zone the country controls. It also protested “the activities of scientific prospecting and exploration of the Venezuelan continental shelf and seafloor.” The statement added that the ship will arrive at Margarita Island on Saturday.

The Teknik Perdana is flagged in Panama and owned by Singapore company TL Geohydrographics Ltd. It was operating in the Roraima concession block when it was detained by Venezuela. It’s unclear when the country will release the ship and its crew.

[Image by Danny McL via Flickriver]