LOS ANGELES, USA -- The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea has settled a 6-year maritime boundary dispute between Suriname and Guyana, giving each country access to an offshore basin believed to be rich in oil and natural gas.
"The boundary for the most part follows the equidistance line between Guyana and Suriname," the Hamburg, Germany-based tribunal said. Guyana and Suriname lie side-by-side on the northeastern coast of South America, between Brazil and Venezuela.
Suriname had asserted a boundary further to the north and west, while Guyana had relied on the so-called equidistance line method of determining the boundary, which placed it further to the south and east.
While the exact position of the ocean boundary between them had long been a subject of disagreement, it did not result in conflict until exploratory tests revealed potentially huge deposits of hydrocarbons beneath the sea bed.
In 2000 Suriname enforced its disputed claim by sending two gunboats to force CGX Energy Inc. to withdraw its drilling rig from the disputed area before it could drill under a license granted by Guyana.
According to the terms of the tribunal's ruling, Guyana gained sovereignty over 12,837 sq miles of the coastal waters, while Suriname received 6,900 sq miles.
Both Guyana and Suriname agreed to abide by the tribunal's ruling, and as a result both nations can also now proceed in further exploration of their respective ocean territories.
The US Geological Survey estimates that the coastal area off the two countries, referred to as the Guyana-Suriname basin, could hold reserves of 15 billion bbl of oil and 42 tcf of gas.