Maritime dispute ITLOS clears Ghana to continue oil exploration

ITLOS has ruled that Ghana may proceed with the oil exploration in the disputed area of the maritime boundary with the Ivory Coast.

  • Published: , Refreshed:
Marietta Brew Oppong-Appiah, Ghana's Attorney General play

Marietta Brew Oppong-Appiah, Ghana's Attorney General

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The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) has ruled that, Ghana can go ahead to explore oil despite the dispute between it and neighbours Ivory Coast.

The Tribunal has however, directed Ghana to ensure that the country “take all necessary steps to ensure that no new drilling either by Ghana or under its control takes place in the disputed area.”

Cote d’Ivoire called for the cessation of all activities, including oil exploration on the disputed maritime boundary, until the hearing of the substantive case, which is set to be settled in 2018.

The conflict began from boardrooms via threatening letters to oil companies to stop operating, but Ghana took the bull by the horn in September, 2014 when it dragged Cote d’Ivoire to the ITLOS for final resolution of its neighbour’s claimed over portions of Ghana’s oilfields and adjoining seabed.

After 10 failed attempts at negotiation between both countries, Ghana went to ITLOS 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.

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

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.”

Ghana maintained that Cote d’Ivoire began issuing ominous letters to oil companies operating in the disputed area after millions of dollars had been invested to develop the affected oilfields.

However, they added that, "the suspension of ongoing activities conducted by Ghana in respect of which drilling has already taken place would entail the risk of considerable financial loss to Ghana and its concessionaires and could also pose a serious danger to the marine environment resulting, in particular, from the deterioration of equipment. It therefore considers that an order suspending all exploration or exploitation activities conducted by or on behalf of Ghana in the disputed area, including activities in respect of which drilling has already taken place, would cause prejudice to the rights claimed by Ghana and create an undue burden on it and that such an order could also cause harm to the marine environment."

Read full report of the ITLOS ruling.pdf 

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