Venezuela has entered Guyana’s territorial waters to capture a US company-operated ship in a move that signifies “a serious threat to peace in the region.” Georgetown has demanded the “immediate release” of the seismic survey vessel and its crew.
“The RV Teknik Perdana was in Guyana’s waters when this incident took place,” said the statement by the Guyanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
An armed Venezuelan naval vessel, the Yekuana, last Thursday intercepted and “escorted” the Panamanian-flagged ship out of Guyana’s waters to Venezuela’s Island of Margarita in a manner that was “clear that the vessel and its crew . . . were under arrest,” the Guyanese statement said. “These actions . . . are unprecedented in Guyana Venezuela relations.”
The RV Teknik Perdana — a research vessel chartered by Texas-based Anadarko Petroleum Corporation — was surveying the seafloor in Guyana’s offshore Roraima block. Anadarko holds a petroleum prospecting license for that area, noted Georgetown.
Caracas insists that the ship was in Venezuelan waters and that “the Bolivarian National Navy would never encroach on the territory of a fraternal nation.” A statement by the Foreign Ministry protested the “scientific prospecting” of the Venezuelan territorial marine bed by foreign vessels authorized by the government of Guyana.
The incident highlights historical differences between the neighboring nations over the Essequibo Region. Venezuela has claimed that the mineral rich region west of the Essequibo River was stolen from it by an 1899 agreement between Britain and Guyana, its colony at the time.
Georgetown has requested a meeting with Venezuelan officials this week to pursue the release of the crew — which include five US citizens — and the ship, detained in Margarita since Saturday. “Guyana is committed to working with the Venezuelan Government to find a diplomatic solution to this problem.”