Drawing the line in border disputes

SECOND PAGE PICThe presence of oil and gas reserves frequently leads to disputes over boundary delimitations, particularly in offshore maritime areas. Stephen Williams reports from Africa Oil Week for December's Oil Review Africa about issues facing companies and governments across the continent

Two maritime border disputes are brewing in offshore West and East African waters, but these could well be just the first two of many such clashes to arise over the next few years, delegates at the Africa Oil Week in Cape Town were told in a special break out session. The issues involved were explained by Robert van de Poll, the international manager of Law of the Sea at Fugro; and Dr Pieter Bekker, a partner at Cameron McKenna law firm.

A presentation by the two men took a whistle-stop tour around Africa discussing each region’s potential flash points when it comes to maritime boundaries and offshore oil and gas acreage. Ironically, Congo-Brazzaville issued an oil licensing round during the Africa Oil Week, and at least one of the blocks on offer partially overlaps an area already awarded to Total by Angola But the two disputes that are currently being argued are those between Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, and Kenya and Somalia.

Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana have submitted a case that affects part of Tullow Oil’s Tweneboa-Enyenra Ntomme gas field discovery, which came onstream in August. Tullow says the case will not have an impact on its block – but a decision is expected within the next 12 months, insists Tim O’Hanlon, vice president of Tullow in Africa. Nevertheless Tullow will halt further drilling in the Tweneboa, Enyenra, Ntomme (Ten) Project oil field as a result of this dispute. 

The full article can be read in this month's Oil Review Africa on page 22 here

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