Two Britons are believed to be among the crew of a seismic research vessel under effective “ship arrest” today after becoming snarled in a territorial dispute that flared over the weekend between Venezuela and neighbouring Guyana, which dates back over a 100 years to when Guyana was under British control.
On a research voyage for an American oil exploration company, the 285ft survey ship Teknik Perdana was escorted to port in Venezuela’s Margarita Island on Sunday. It appeared the 36 crew members, who also included five US citizens, were being held on board pending an investigation by the Venezuelan authorities.
The ship belongs to Anadarko, a Texan firm, which has been granted a contract to look for oil in the area.
Admiral Angel Belisario Martinez said the Panamanian-flagged vessel was conducting “unauthorised scientific work” inside Venezuela’s exclusive economic zone and the case had been referred to prosecutors.
The incident risks reigniting a long-festering border dispute between Venezuela and its impoverished neighbour. Caracas has for decades claimed roughly two-thirds of Guyana’s territory as its own– all of the country west of the Essequibo River – arguing it was stolen in a treaty signed in 1899 when Guyana was British.
The Guyanese government has said the vessel was in its territorial waters when it was intercepted.