Dispute over offshore blocks between T&T, Grenada

(Trinidad Express) The spoils of exploration for two of the country’s deep water blocks, which were put up for bid just last week, are threatening a conflict between Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada.

The two offshore acreage blocks- TTDAA 28 and TTDAA 29- which are North-East of T&T border this country’s international boundary with Grenada.

Energy technocrats told the Sunday Express there remains unresolved issues with those two blocks and raised concern that Trinidad’s former director of resource management at the Ministry of Energy, Helena Inniss-King, is now consulting with the counterpart entity in the Grenadian government.

Judge of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, Justice Anthony Lucky, told the Sunday Express yesterday that former prime minister Patrick Manning “in his wisdom” had entered into an agreement which delineated the common continental shelf in 2008 between Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada.

Justice Lucky said it could affect the blocks if they were outside the boundaries that Manning agreed to.

But recognising this possible cross-border conflict last year, a three-member team—Stephen Jagdeo, Joyce Lynch and Louise Poi Wing—were appointed to deal with the issue. Two of them have since left the Ministry of Energy.

Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine told the Sunday Express that those two blocks were “very prospective blocks”.

He explained yesterday that it followed a geological trend, of prospective oil, which runs straight through TTDAA 28 and TTDAA 29 which extends straight up to Barbados.

“Those blocks do lie on the border of Grenada,” he confirmed last night by phone.

While not in a position to say anything more, Ramnarine said negotiations with the Grenadian Government were done in April 2010 before his time.

But Energy technocrats explained to the Sunday Express the issue of Trinidad and Tobago’s continental shelf is now in question again.

For reference, they pointed to the maritime boundary dispute between T&T and Barbados, in which a judgement was delivered in 2006, which in technical terms, went in Barbados’ favour.

Barbados had initiated arbitration proceedings at the Hague-based International Dispute Resolution Centre, on February 16, 2004 under the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea after a public row between both countries over the rights of Barbadian fisherfolk to fish in waters off Tobago.

The judgement had dismissed Trinidad and Tobago’s right to almost 30,000 square nautical miles as near as 40 miles off Oistins and had only ceded a mere 315 nautical miles. The five-member arbitration panel had also established a median line representing the halfway point between Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados and affirmed Barbados’ right to a 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as well as its right to exploit hydrocarbon resources beneath the sea bed as far as 150 nautical miles beyond the 200-nautical mile EEZ.

The technocrats have expressed concern about Grenada pursuing a similar action like that of Barbados.

Not only are they concerned about the two blocks up for bid but they’re worried about the implications of this country’s continental shelf as it relates to Guyana (which at the moment is pursing exploration) and Venezuela.

Only last week, Energy Minister Ramnarine announced that the government has already received 20 nominations for the six deep water blocks up (inclusive of the TTDAA 28 and TTDAA 29) for bid at this year’s Deepwater Competitive Bidding Round. The other blocks include TTDAA 1, TTDAA 5, TTDAA 6 and Block 25 (a).

Ramnarine had expressed optimism that the interest expressed should result in a very successful attempt to explore the country’s deepwater acreages. The bidding ends on July 30.

However, officials at the Energy Ministry are concerned that the bid round may be doomed for failure.

Trinidad and Tobago has faced several challenges with selling its deep water blocks. In 2006, eight blocks were put out for bids and there was only one bid. In 2011, only three out of 11 blocks attracted bids.

The technocrats pointed out that while Ramnarine boasted of reprocessed seismic data which improves technical confidence and interpretations of the basins, that many of the technical data was recycled.

“This is the third bid round this government is pursuing and it carries with it tremendous hope for the future of the national energy sector,” said Ramnarine.

In order to increase deepwater exploration the government introduced incentives for international companies to invest in the sector by reducing the petroleum profits tax to 35 per cent, from 50 per cent.


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