CARACAS, Venezuela – Caracas strongly rejected Washington’s response after intercepting an ExxonMobil oil exploration vessel by Venezuelan authorities, the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry said.
On Saturday night, the Guyana Foreign Ministry said that the Venezuelan Bolivarian Navy had intercepted an oil exploration vessel operating within the country’s territorial waters under the flag of the Bahamas and on behalf of the American oil and gas corporation ExxonMobil. Caracas, for its part, insisted that there were not one but two oil exploration vessels, and they had illegally crossed the Venezuelan maritime border.
The incident occurred in contested territories that are referred to by Venezuela as Guayana Esequiba. The site has also been claimed by Guyana since the 19th century and there were increased tensions and between Caracas and Georgetown in 2015, when Guyana granted a license to ExxonMobil to explore the oil-rich region.
The US State Department called on Venezuela to “respect” the sovereignty of its neighbors.
“The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela categorically rejects the statement of the US State Department on sovereign actions on December 23 by the Bolivarian Navy for the strict protection of Venezuelan waters,” the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The hydrographic vessel was forced to halt operations and withdraw from the site, the vessel’s owner said.
The Venezuelan Navy intercepted the Ramform Tethys vessel with the Bahamian flag that was conducting a geological survey for ExxonMobil in the waters of Guyana.
Buque Ramform Tethys, perteneciente a la empresa noruega, Petroleum Geo-Services, la cual realizaba trabajos a nombre de @exxonmobil, detuvo su trabajo de exploración luego de ser abordado por un buque de la armada venezolana. #23Dic pic.twitter.com/4hnImETD93
— MundoTv2.0 (@MundoTv20) December 23, 2018
It was easily recognized because of its amplitude, almost triangular. The vessel belongs to the Norwegian company Petroelum Geo-Services (PGS), according to Reuters .
Tethys was carrying out a seismic survey work at ExxonMobil’s service, when it was intercepted by Venezuelan ships. In the course of the situation, the vessel made a stop and returned quickly, said PGS spokesman Bard Stenberg.
In recent years, ExxonMobil has identified oil deposits in Guyanese waters, equivalent to 4 billion barrels, which could make it one of the largest producers in Latin America. However, the difficulty is due to a dispute between Caracas and Georgetown that has taken place for centuries.
According to the Foreign Ministry of Guyana, the country will request the US to send a formal communication to the current Venezuelan government regarding the incident. In addition, Georgetown intends to inform other governments that the 70 crew members on board the ship have experienced a “security threat” experience.