International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea saves Ghana $49bn
Ghana was going to lose an estimated $49 billion if the tribunal that adjudicated on the maritime boundary dispute had ruled in favour of Cote d’Ivoire.
However, the Special Chamber of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, (ITLOS), sitting in Hamburg, Germany, declined to order the payment of compensation to Cote d’Ivoire.
Experts say the international court would most likely have ordered Ghana to pay reparation to Cote d’Ivoire from the date it (Ghana) commenced the drilling of oil in commercial quantities in 2010.
The dispute concerning the delimitation of the maritime boundary between Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire in the Atlantic Ocean was concluded last Saturday with the judgement unanimously in favour of Ghana.
Ghana filed the claim in 2014 after about 10 negotiations with Cote d’Ivoire over the maritime boundary had failed.
The West African neighbour then filed a counter claim, including reparation, whilst at the same time laying claim to portions of huge oil and gas reserves located around the maritime boundary between the two countries in the Western Region.
The Special Chamber ruled that to delimit the new maritime boundary, it would use a new Land Boundary Terminus (LBT) that it had set at BP55plus, thus rejecting the different LBTs (geographical coordinates of BP55 in the case of Ghana and 168 degrees azimuth line put forward by Cote d’Ivoire).
In effect, the court has generated a new base point with which to draw the final boundary, which it said is an Equidistance Line Boundary covering the Territorial Sea – the Exclusive Economic Zone in the area beyond 200 nautical miles – and experts have said it looks good for Ghana as far as exploration of oil and gas is concerned.
Per the judgement, Cote d’Ivoire has lost almost every claim against Ghana, except the order by the Special Tribunal for the two countries to re-demarcate the maritime boundary; but will be of no significance as far as the huge claims put forward by Ghana’s western neighbour are concerned.
“The new and final maritime boundary line protects Ghana’s existing concessions,” an unnamed source told DAILY GUIDE immediately after the judgement, adding, “It protects all areas belonging to Ghana which go up to the 200 nautical miles limit in the area beyond 200 nautical miles up to 350 nautical miles.”
Ghana appeared to have lost the argument of Tacit Agreement moved against Cote d’Ivoire, which it said confirmed the full scope of over 50 years of joint activities between the two countries regarding the maritime boundary.
Although Ghana lost that argument, it turned out that it was the display of the maps brought by Ghana that largely aided the Special Tribunal to come to the conclusion that the maritime boundary line should be drawn using the BP55plus coordinate.
Cote d’Ivoire, in its quest to get the maritime boundary re-demarcated, tried to convince the court that Jomoro in the Jomoro District of the Western Region, is an island or a kind of a peninsula, but the court dismissed the claim saying the Ivoirians themselves had always recognized the fact that Jomoro has been Ghana’s bonafide territory.
The Special Tribunal summed up the whole judgement in seven key points and in all of them, it was unanimous in dismissing the case brought by Cote d’Ivoire.
It unanimously found out that it has jurisdiction to delimit the maritime boundary between the parties in the territorial sea, in the exclusive economic zone and on the continental shelf – both within and beyond 200 nm.
The tribunal also unanimously found that there is no tacit agreement between the parties to delimit their territorial sea, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf both within and beyond 200 nm, and rejected Ghana’s claim that Côte d’Ivoire was estopped from objecting to the customary equidistance boundary.
When Ghana discovered oil in commercial quantities in 2007, Cote d’Ivoire said Ghana was straying into its waters in the course of the exploration exercise at West Cape Three Points.
Cote d’Ivoire came again with a renewed set of claims in 2010, including compensation from Ghana for entering into its territory when the Dzata-1 Deepwater Well was discovered by Vanco.
Ghana then constituted the Ghana Boundary Commission in March 2010, after Cote d’Ivoire had petitioned the United Nations over the oil exploratory activities and requested for a demarcation of the maritime boundary.
After about 10 high-level negotiations between Ghana and Code d’Ivoire had yielded no dividends, Ghana filed a petition before ITLOS in 2014, asking the special tribunal to look into the matter and bring finality to it.
Cote d’Ivoire responded, adding a counter-claim, including the payment of reparation from Ghana and appealed to the special tribunal to suspend all activities on the disputed area until the final determination of the case.
The first ruling given by ITLOS was in 2015 when it placed a moratorium on new projects that were being undertaken by Ghana, but said the old projects could continue.
The moratorium prevented Tullow Oil from drilling additional 13 wells. The company drilled 11 wells in Ghana’s first oil field.