Thu | Mar 22, 2018

Guyana urged to secure all rights to its developing oil sector

Published:Tuesday | April 4, 2017 | 3:29 PM
Sir Shridath Ramphal

The former Commonwealth secretary general, Sir Shridath Ramphal is urging the Guyana government to ensure that it secures all rights to its recently discovered oil sector before the decades-old standoff with Venezuela enters a new phase.

“But we have to prepare properly; we have to secure that oil. We have to get rid of the Venezuela issue, and we have to do all that, as the lawyers say, seriatim; one after the other,’ The Guyana-born Sir Shridath told the state-owned Guyana Chronicle newspaper.

The border dispute between the two countries may be heading to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) if efforts by the United Nations to broker a deal by year-end fails.

The newly-appointed United Nations Secretary General Personal Representative on the so-called Good Offices Process, Dag Halvor Nylander, a former Norwegian diplomat, is expected here next week to meet with officials on the border issue.

“By the end of the year, if it doesn’t yield satisfactory progress of a solution, then we go to the ICJ. So we can look ahead to 2018 seeing us in the court, which we hope will put an end to this evil,” said Sir Shridath, who is also an advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy.”

Guyana has been seeking to consolidate its oil and energy sector after the US oil giant, ExxonMobil recently announced that it had made another significant oil discovery on the Snoek Well offshore Guyana, in the Stabroek Block.

In February, ExxonMobil affiliate, Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Ltd. commenced drilling of the Snoek Well and encountered 82 feet of high-quality, oil-bearing sandstone reservoirs.

Sir Shridath told the Guyana Chronicle newspaper that while the Good Offices Process would not have an immediate impact on oil explorations here, it is important to have the border controversy between Guyana and Venezuela resolved as soon as possible.

“Well, it wouldn’t have an impact now… The oil is not now; production is years away.

“But what we should do now is prepare for it; and because it is not a good time economically, people are impatient, inevitably,” Sir Shridath said, noting that the David Granger government is “on the right track” where preparatory works for the up-and-coming petroleum industry are concerned.

He said the foundational process includes the initiation of legislative and regulatory frameworks that would pave the way for a safe, productive and transparent petroleum sector.

“I am satisfied that the government is pursuing the course that it should be. It will take time, but preparing for an oil discovery of the magnitude that is involved in Guyana inevitably requires worldwide skills,” he said, adding that the government should capitalise on the experiences of other oil-producing countries.

Trinidad and Tobago, an oil producing country, has already indicated that intends to help its Caribbean Community (CARICOM) partner country take full advantage of the sector.

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley held talks with  ExxonMobile senior executives in the United States last weekend and a statement issued afterwards quoted Rowley as saying that his country is ideally positioned to play a key role in assisting with Guyana’s hydrocarbon future.

“Our location, refinery, deep water harbours, access to markets and expertise in the energy sector all make us the best candidate for partnership with our neighbour,” the statement quoted him as saying during the talks with the senior ExxonMobil officials.