Venezuela Detains U.S. Operated Ship

Published Oct 11, 2013 5:23 PM by The Maritime Executive

Courtesy of MarineTraffic.com

The government of Guyana issued a statement on Friday saying that the Venezuelan government has intercepted a U.S. operated ship conducting seismic surveys off its coast. The crew of the vessel, which includes five U.S. citizens, has been escorted back to Venezuela for detention.

According to the Guyanese government, the RV Teknik Perdana was carrying out a multi-beam survey of the seafloor in Guyana’s exclusive economic zone Thursday afternoon when they were intercepted by the Venezuelan Yekuana. The armed navy vessel offered a counter claim to the territory saying that the ship was in Venezuela’s exclusive economic zone. The Venezuelan navy ordered the crew of the RV Teknik Perdana to cease their survey operations and change course.

At about 8:30 pm the seismic vessel was ordered to sail to the Venezuelan island of Margarita. The Guyana Ministry of Affairs stated, “it was clear then that the vessel and its crew were not only being escorted out of Guyana’s waters, but were under arrest.”

In response to Venezuela’s actions, the Guyanese government has called for the immediate release of the RV Teknik Perdana and its crew. They have stated, “the government of Guyana is of the firm belief that the actions taken by the Venezuelan navy vessel constitute a serious threat to the peace of this sub-region and the government of Guyana therefore strongly condemns these actions.”

The RV Teknik Perdana, a 285-foot survey vessel, was operated by Anadarko Petroleum, based out of Texas. In June 2012 the company had been awarded a deep water exploration license for an area called Roraima, which lies in the disputed territory of Essequibo on the Guyana-Venezuela border. Although, the disputed area is internationally recognized as part of Guyana, Venezuela refers to the area as the “reclamation zone” and shows it on maps of the country. The increased interest in oil exploration has only intensified the conflict between the two countries.

The exact number of crew aboard the RV Teknik Perdana is still unknown, but sources have disclosed the five US citizens onboard were contractors for Anadarko and employees of TDI Brooks International, also based out of Texas.  John Christiansen, the spokesman for Anadarko said the company was working with the US and Guyana to ensure the release of the crew and the vessel. The director of operations for TDI, Peter Tatro, has stated that he spoke with employees aboard, but he has expressed concerned of what the crew will face when they reach Margarita island on Sunday.

The government of Guyana maintains its claim to the territory being explored, and has stated that they were “illegally evicted” from their waters. They have further said that, “the government of Guyana is committed to working with the Venezuelan Government to find a diplomatic solution to this problem which has arisen.”

The US State Department offered no comment on the detention of the RV Teknik Perdana, and Venezuela’s Information Ministry said that no information was available on the situation. -MarEx