Spike Seen In African Offshore Disputes, Oil Companies Watching

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African maritime boundary disputes are expected to rise dramatically, potentially curbing exploration and creating uncertainty in ownership over tens of billions of barrels of oil, industry experts say.

Reuters

CAPE TOWN, Nov 6 (Reuters) - African maritime boundary disputes are expected to rise dramatically, potentially curbing exploration and creating uncertainty in ownership over tens of billions of barrels of oil, industry experts say.

A lack of maritime boundary agreements, which has not kept pace as more oil companies moved offshore into deeper waters, has seen many African nations struggling to enforce their sovereign rights under the 1982 Law of Sea treaty.

In the past four months, two matters involving Kenya and Somalia and, more recently, Ghana and Ivory Coast have been referred for arbitration, alarming oil companies such as Tullow Oil who have been inadvertently caught in the fallout.

"My hotspot at the moment is Africa," said Robert van de Poll, one of a handful of global experts dealing with maritime boundary disputes under the rules of procedure of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

"Besides the two recent challenges, there are number of other areas which are under review and will need resolution between the countries involved," he told Reuters at an African oil and gas conference organised by Global Pacific & Partners.

Van de Poll told delegates of potential discord among African nations keen to cash in as oil companies push into deeper waters.

With more than 13 million square kilometres of waters covered under the Law of the Sea off Africa, Van de Poll said there were 100 maritime boundaries covered, with 32 agreed and 68 still up in the air.


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