Tuesday, April 28, 2015

‘ITLOS decision on Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire maritime dispute is victory for both countries’

Armah-Kofi Buah, Minister of Petroleum
Armah-Kofi Buah, Minister of Petroleum

Two ministers of state have described the decision by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) to allow production of oil to take place on a maritime boundary between Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire as victory for both countries.
The Minister of Energy and Petroleum, Mr Mr Emmanuel Armah-Kofi Buah and the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mrs Marietta Brew Appiah-Opong, have also hailed Saturday’s ruling as victory for international diplomacy, respect for the rule of law and a boost for investor confidence in Ghana.
Mr Buah and Mrs Marietta Appiah-Opong, in separate interviews with the Daily Graphic in Hamburg last Saturday, stressed that the ruling had also averted huge global financial catastrophe in the oil and gas industry.
They both expressed joy that the exploration and exploitation works on drilled wells for the Tweneboah-Enyenra-Ntoumme (TEN) project, being operated by Tullow Oil Plc and its partners, could proceed without any restrictions.

ITLOS’s Decision

The tribunal on Saturday, April 25, 2015, gave Ghana the nod to continue oil production activities at a disputed maritime boundary area between it and Cote d’Ivoire.
It, however, ordered Ghana not to start any new offshore drilling for oil in the disputed waters until the substantive matter is resolved.
These were contained in a unanimous decision by the tribunal, following Cote d’Ivoire’s call for the suspension of activities on the disputed maritime boundary until the final determination of their disagreement over the boundary.
Ghana and its partners would have lost more than $4.7 billion from April 25, 2015 till 2018 when the matter would be settled if the tribunal had heeded Cote d’Ivoire’s call for a suspension of oil exploration activities.
Another key issue raised by both ministers was that although the tribunal directed that new wells should not be drilled in the disputed area, exploration and exploitation works being conducted by other oil companies had not been affected in any way because they were not operating in the disputed area.
“Work on the TEN project has progressed by more than 50 per cent, with enough drilled wells for production,” Mr Buah said.

Mr Buah

“This decision has really given our upstream industry a big boost and renewed investor confidence in our basins and Ghana’s basic objective is to become the oil hub in Africa. It is decisive enough to tell investors we can go on.
“Some companies were holding on and now that this decision has lifted the dark clouds, we hope reluctant companies will now show more interest in Ghana’s oil and gas industry,” he added.
He said Ghana would have lost $2.7 billion in deferred revenue from December 2016 to February 2018 when judgement would be delivered.
Justifying why both countries had a future tied together, Mr Buah said: “Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire work together on energy challenges and we have major agreements on the exchange of electricity, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to work on a West African gas company and we have to focus on strengthening those agreements to address the issue of access to cheaper energy source.
“As we speak, we exchange power with Cote d’Ivoire on a daily basis, our transmission grids are linked. We have a future potential to extend the West African Gas Pipeline beyond Ghana to Cote d’Ivoire.”
Mrs Brew Appiah-Opong
The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice said the outcome of the application was extremely important to Ghana because what it sought to do was to stop the country’s oil companies, in particular Tullow Oil Plc and its partners, from working in the area.
“What it means is that all our oil companies can continue to operate without fear that their activities will be stopped during the course of this court action.
“We put in a good fight. Every single member of the team worked hard from all relevant agencies and each needs to be proud for a good work done,” Mrs  Appiah-Opong said.
The team’s main focus now, she said, was to start preparing for the main case, which will be heard in 2017.
“The other focus is we must endeavour to strengthen our relationship with Cote d’Ivoire and we will continue to co-operate with them in the energy sector as we have always done,” she added.
Ghana went to the ITLOS in September 2014 under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), seeking a declaration that it had not encroached on Cote d’Ivoire’s territorial waters.
Cote d’Ivoire, in February 2015, filed for preliminary measures urging the tribunal to suspend all activities on the disputed area until the definitive determination of the case, dubbed: “Dispute Concerning Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary between Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire in the Atlantic Ocean.”
The case was filed by Ghana after 10 failed attempts at negotiation and Cote d’Ivoire’s issuance of threatening letters to oil companies operating in the disputed area.

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