Côte d’Ivoire stops Ghana from TEN oilfield explorations

Tullow Oil plc (Tullow) has announced that it has been advised by the Government of Ghana to suspend ongoing exploration and exploitation operations in the TEN oilfield because La Côte d’Ivoire has applied to the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) demanding for such a measure until the court gives its final verdict.

In a statement issued on Monday, the Tullow Oil plc said “it understands that a decision on this application for provisional measures should be handed down before the end of April, 2015”.

Below is the full statement:

Tullow Oil plc (Tullow) announces that it has been advised by the Government of Ghana that the Government of Côte d’Ivoire has applied for provisional measures to be ordered in Ghana’s maritime boundary dispute with Côte d’Ivoire which is in arbitration before a Special Chamber of the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg.

The provisional measures application includes a request that ITLOS orders Ghana to suspend ongoing exploration and exploitation operations in the disputed area in which the TEN project is situated until ITLOS gives its full verdict which is expected towards the end of 2017.

Tullow understands that a decision on this application for provisional measures should be handed down before the end of April 2015.

This arbitration was commenced by Ghana in 2014 in an effort to resolve a dispute with regard to the maritime boundary between Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.

Tullow’s advice from external counsel is that Ghana has a strong case under international law that the current boundary location, which follows an equidistance line, will be upheld by ITLOS in accordance with the Law of the Sea Convention to which both states are party. Work on the TEN project continues and remains on schedule and on budget for first oil in mid-2016.

Aidan Heavey, Chief Executive Officer of Tullow Oil, commented today:

“Tullow has long had interests in and strong relationships with both Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire and we have conducted our operations in both countries in line with our obligations as a contractor under our Petroleum Agreements and in accordance with international operating standards.

Although the arbitration process allows for an application of provisional measures, it is our view that it is in the best interest of all parties that the TEN project continues to move ahead without delay and unencumbered by legal tactics of this nature.”

Ghana optimistic of winning dispute

In September last year, Ghana’s Attorney General Marrietta Brew Appiah Oppong said at a press conference that the young oil producer is certain of winning the arbitration case it filed against Côte d’Ivoire over the maritime boundary dispute.

“We’re extremely confident in our case. I don’t think we’ll lose. Many laws support the position we’ve taken so I’m confident that it will go our way”, Appiah-Oppong told Journalists.

She said the line drawn to delineate Ghana’s maritime territory from Côte d’Ivoire has “existed for decades” since the 1950s “so Ghana is not ready to shift its position”.

Ghana resorted to the International Court after more than 10 rounds of negotiations with Côte d’Ivoire since 2008 without success of resolving the impasse.

The young oil producing country of 25 million people wants the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea to declare that it has not encroached on the Ivorian territorial waters in the exploration of oil.

Appiah-Oppong said the arbitration process started by Ghana is not a “hostile” move intended to create tension between the two neighbours.

“This is not a hostile act. All we’re are doing is to bring certainty and finality to the matter. It does not mean we’re at loggerheads or the two heads of state are fighting”, Ghana’s chief lawyer said.

The case, according to the AG will take at least three years. The two parties are to agree on three independent arbitrators by mutual consent. The president of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to which both countries belong, will be compelled to appoint the arbitrators should the two parties fail to reach an agreement on the arbitrators.

The decision of the arbitrators will be final. There will be no room for appeal. The Minister said all Ghana’s operations in oil fields that fall within the disputed boundary will continue operating in the interim.

Energy Minister Emmanuel Amah Kofi Buah said at the press conference that the claim of Côte d’Ivoire indeed affects some of Ghana’s concessions.

Also Minister of Communication, Dr Edward Omane Boamah said despite the warm relationship between Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, the former British colony has “a sacred duty of protecting our natural resources not just for this generation but also generations unborn”.

Ghana filed the suit based on Article 287 Annex VII of the 1982 UNCLOS.

The statement of claim avers, among other things, that pursuant to articles 286 and 287 of the 1982 UNCLOS, and in accordance with Article 1 Annex 1, the Republic of Ghana had served notice to the Republic of The Ivory Coast to the effect that “having failed to reach a settlement after successive negotiations and exchange of views over an extended period of time, Ghana has elected to submit the dispute concerning the determination of each maritime boundary with Cote d’Ivoire to the arbitral procedure provided for under Annex VII of UNCLOS”.

Ghana discovered oil in commercial quantities offshore the Western Region in June 2007, but the Ivorian authorities have been laying claim to the discovery.

The dispute received wide media attention in the past, resulting in leaders from both countries engaging in talks to resolve their differences.

And to compound the issue, oil companies operating in the oilfields have been receiving threatening letters from The Ivory Coast asking them to leave site.

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