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Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire open Arguments at ITLOS on Disputed Maritime Boundary
 
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30-Mar-2015  
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Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire are legally battling it out at the Tribunal for the International Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg, Germany over their maritime boundary dispute.
 

Oral arguments for a motion on whether or not all activities should be stopped until the final determination of maritime boundary dispute between Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire has begun at ITLOS.

 

A major project to be affected should Cote d’Ivoire’s call for all activities to cease on the disputed boundary be upheld, is the exploration and exploitation works on the Tweneboah-Enyera-Ntoumme (TEN) project being operated by Tullow Oil Plc and its partners.

 

Lawyers for both sides are advancing legal arguments to strengthen their positions for the grant or rejection of the application, which was filed by Cote d’Ivoire in February 2015.

 

Ghana filed arbitration processes in September 2014 after 10 failed negotiation attempts with Cote d’Ivoire over maritime boundary dispute between the two countries.

Cote d’Ivoire then filed a preliminary application praying the ITLOS to suspend all activities including oil exploration on the disputed boundary until the final determination of the matter.

 

It is also praying the tribunal to stop Ghana from issuing new licences to potential oil companies to operate on the disputed boundary until the issue is settled.

 

Preliminary

 

Graphiconline’s Court Correspondent, Mabel Aku Baneseh reports from the Tribunal in Hamburg that preliminary hearing of the dispute tagged: “Dispute Concerning Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary between Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire in the Atlantic Ocean,” begun on Sunday, March 29. Closing arguments would be held on Monday, March 30, 2015.

 

According to our correspondent, at the hearing in Hamburg on Sunday, a team of Ivorian lawyers and their international counterparts advanced arguments on why all activities on the disputed area should be suspended.

 

However, Ghana’s legal and technical team, led by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mrs Marietta Brew Appiah-Opong prayed the tribunal to dismiss Cote d’Ivoire’s application on the grounds that it was not founded on law, facts and thus without merit.

 

Ghana’s legal team, is also backed by experienced lawyers from the United States of America (US) and the United Kingdom (UK).

 

The tribunal’s panel is presided over by Judge Boualem Bouguetaia; Judge Rudiger Wolfrum; Judge Jin-Hyun Paik; Judge Thomas Mensah and Judge Ronny Abraham.

Judges Mensah and Abraham were appointed by Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire in conjunction with the rules of the tribunal.

The registrar of the tribunal is Mr Philippe Gautier.

 

Cote d’Ivoire’s position

 

Cote d’Ivoire’s 30-paged request, signed by its Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Mr Adama Toungara, is asking the tribunal to suspend all ongoing oil exploration and exploitation operations in the disputed area.

 

It also asking the tribunal to direct Ghana to refrain from granting any new permit for oil exploration and exploitation in the disputed area.

 

Another prayer from Cote d’Ivoire is an order directed at Ghana to “take all steps necessary to prevent information resulting from past, ongoing or future exploration activities conducted by Ghana, or with its authorization, in the disputed area from being used in any way whatsoever to the detriment of Côte d’Ivoire.”

 

Ghana’s neigbour is further urging the tribunal to direct Ghana to refrain from any unilateral action entailing a risk of prejudice to the rights of Côte d’Ivoire and any unilateral action that might lead to aggravating the dispute.

 

According to Cote d’Ivoire, it would suffer severe and irreparable economic injury if its request, is not granted by the tribunal.

 

Ghana says no

 

Ghana, which was advancing its argument at the tribunal as of the time of going to press, has filed a 64-paged written response as well as attached several exhibits to buttress its position that Cote d’Ivoire had no case to merit any favourable response from the tribunal.

 

Ghana’s 57-paged address signed by Mrs Appiah-Opong states among others, that “what Côte d’Ivoire seeks in effect is an order from the Special Chamber to close down large parts of Ghana’s well-established offshore oil and gas industry. 

 

“Côte d’Ivoire attempts to abandon decades of its own well-established practice and to formulate a new maritime claim that would enjoin its neighbour from continuing to do that which Côte d’Ivoire has known about and accepted for decades.”

 

“At the heart of the Request presented by Côte d’Ivoire is a newly claimed maritime boundary that is based on a bisector approach and the abandonment of a long-agreed boundary line that was based on equidistance.” 

 

“As the history summarised below demonstrates, Côte d’Ivoire’s new approach is the culmination of a series of radical and unprincipled departures from an equidistance approach which both Parties had applied for decades, in reliance on which Ghana has granted concessions, entered into contracts, acquired rights, and undertaken extensive contractual obligations with international oil companies.”

 

“Having allowed those steps to be taken, with full knowledge and acceptance, Côte d’Ivoire now seeks to bring operations on the Ghana side of the long-recognized border to an abrupt halt. Nowhere in its Request does Côte d’Ivoire acknowledge its own practice over decades, or the immense and irreparable harm which the measures it seeks would cause to Ghana.”

 

Unsupported claims

 

According to Ghana’s Attorney-General, Côte d’Ivoire’s request was premised on a number of unsupported and injurious factual allegations adding “they consist in particular of accusations of lack of transparency and incompetence of Ghana’s regulation and supervision of petroleum operations, as well as the alleged incompetence and disdain for the marine environment of Ghana’s leading oil concessionaire (which is also a leading oil concessionaire of Côte d’Ivoire, a fact that Côte d’Ivoire omits to tell the Special Chamber.

 

It makes these allegations for the first time, never having raised them during the lengthy history of bilateral contact on the subject, or during its many communications with the common concessionaire (Tullow),” the written response continued.

 

Backing its position with legal authorities, maps and historical data, Ghana is arguing that the maritime boundary mutually in dispute has been recognized by both Parties, based on equidistance.

 

It is further arguing that Ghana would suffer severe and irreparable harm should the tribunal heed Cote d’Ivoire’s request.

 

Ghana has also accused Côte d’Ivoire of attempting to manipulate the equidistance line by subjecting Ghana’s integrity and the competence of Tullow Oil plc, which is currently operating on parts of the disputed blocks to unwarranted attacks.

 

Ghana also attached witness statements which bordered on the socio-economic impacts of a moratorium on Ghana’s Petroleum Fields and the resultant harm that would ensue to Ghana; Ghana’s long-standing track record of transparently and successfully managing its petroleum operations; and  Ghana’s robust environmental protection regime with regard to the oil and gas industry. 

 

“A fourth statement has been prepared by Paul McDade, Chief Operating Officer of Tullow Oil plc, an important operator licensed by Ghana in its waters (and also licensed by Côte d’Ivoire on its side of the equidistance line). Mr McDade deals with a range of matters including the history of Tullow’s operations in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, the high environmental standards which it applies in its operations, the very substantial investment which it has made in the disputed 

area (over US$ 3 billion to date), and the consequences of an abrupt halt to its activities.”

 

Hearing resumes Monday March 30, 2015 at ITLOS.

 

Background

 

Cote d’Ivoire staked a claim to parts of Ghana’s offshore a year after Ghana discovered oil in commercial quantities in June 2007.


Following failed bilateral talks between the two countries in the past year, Ghana decided to turn to ITLOS under the rules set out by the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS) to protect the country’s interest and that of oil companies who have invested millions of dollars in the exploration of oil at some of the disputed areas.

 

 

 
 
 
 
Source: Daily Graphic
 
 

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