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BOUNDARY BITS

 

Last Updated: 9 March 2004 

 

Barbados and Guyana Agree on Joint Zone

In late February 2004, the Barbadian Foreign Ministry notified parliament of the treaty that establishes a joint zone with Guyana, where the two countries' Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) overlap, and began the ratification process.  The accord provides for a joint fisheries licensing agreement, a joint commission for exploration of non-living resources, and joint security arrangements.  The countries began negotiations in 2001.  The treaty was signed on 2 December 2003, when Presidents Jagdeo and Arthur were in London.  However, the countries did not publicize the accord until they were ready to begin ratification.

On 1 March, President Jagdeo met with Prime Minister Manning of Trinidad and Tobago to assure him that Guyana was not conspiring with Barbados against Trinidad and Tobago (see below).  Jagdeo said that the agreement with Barbados was negotiated over two years and was not a response to recent developments.

Source: Stabroek News (Georgetown), 25 and 27 Feb 2004; Guyana Embassy (Caracas), Guyana Diary, March 2004 at http://www.guyana.org/guyana_diary.html; "Highlights – Caribbean Rim Press 2 Mar 04" in FBIS-LAT-2004-0302.

Comment:  Barbados and Guyana would have a short maritime boundary.  Based on strict equidistance, the line would be about 12 nautical miles (nm) long.  Any such joint zone must cross the 1990 Trinidad and Tobago-Venezuela boundary line.

Barbados Takes Trinidad & Tobago to Arbitration

On 16 February, Barbadian Prime Minister Arthur announced that his government was taking its offshore boundary dispute with Trinidad and Tobago to compulsory arbitration under Part XV and Annex VII of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.  Barbados named Professor Vaughan Lowe of Oxford University as its arbitrator and indicated that it may request provisional measures under Article 290 of the Convention to preserve its historic fishing rights.  The countries held five rounds of maritime delimitation talks and four sessions on fisheries, beginning in 2000.  Barbados disputes the 1990 Trinidad and Tobago-Venezuela maritime boundary treaty, which entered into force on 23 July 1991.  The decision to go to arbitration followed the collapse of negotiations and Barbados' discovery that a 2003 MOU between Trinidad and Venezuela related to commercial oil exploitation of the disputed area.  PM Arthur threatened trade sanctions against Trinidad, because of its continued apprehension of Barbadian fishermen.  Trinidad maintains that its treaty with Venezuela is valid and does not prejudice the rights of other countries.

Sources:  Statement of Kerrie D. Symmonds, Barbados Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, 17 Feb 2004; Statement of Owen Arthur, Barbados Prime Minister, 16 Feb 2004; Stabroek News (Georgetown), 19, 21, 22 and 25 Feb 2004; "Highlights – Caribbean Rim Press 17 Feb 04" in FBIS-LAT-2004-0217; Trinidad & Tobago News, 18 Feb 2004; Daily Nation (Bridgetown), 13, 21 and 24 Feb 2004.

Comments:  The easternmost section of the 1990 Trinidad & Tobago–Venezuela boundary line encroaches on Guyana's and Barbados' maritime zones.  A portion of the boundary cuts about 50 nautical miles through the presumptive EEZ of Barbados (beyond the potential EEZ of Guyana).  The segment of the Trinidad and Tobago–Venezuela boundary at issue extends from Point 21 (1016'01"N, 5849'12"W) to Point 22 (1124'00"N, 5606'30"W).  Portions of this segment are closer to Barbados and Guyana than to either Trinidad & Tobago or to Venezuela.  Specifically, this segment appears to cut into the Barbadian EEZ at about 1049'W longitude.  At that point, the boundary line is equidistant from Barbados and Trinidad (about 178 nm), but 201 nm from Venezuela.  The Trinidad and Tobago-Venezuela boundary continues to the east and it exits the Barbadian EEZ at the 200-nm limit (about 1109'N, 5641'W), where it is 243 nm from Guyana, 224 nm from Trinidad, and 350 nm from Venezuela.  Given the relative locations and distances, it is difficult to understand how Trinidad and Tobago or Venezuela can claim an extended continental shelf (more than 200 nm) through the presumptive Barbadian EEZ.

Barbados cannot invoke mandatory arbitration with Venezuela, because Caracas is not party to the 1982 UN Convention.

Guyana protested the 1990 agreement to Trinidad and Tobago and to Venezuela in February 2002 Notes verbales.  Trinidad responded with its own note the following month.  See United Nations, Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Law of the Sea Bulletin, No. 48, pp. 62-63.

Guyana Takes Suriname to Arbitration over Offshore Dispute

On 25 February 2004, Guyana submitted its offshore dispute with Suriname to binding arbitration under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.  It invoked Article 287 and provisions of Annex VII.  It appointed Professor Thomas Frank as Guyana's judge on the ad hoc panel.  The submission to the President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), which helps set up such ad hoc commissions, requires him to call on Suriname to appoint its judge.  The two judges will appoint two other arbitrators, and the four will select a president for the arbitral panel.  Guyanese President Jagdeo also indicated that he might request provisional relief directly from the ITLOS under Article 290 of the Convention to permit interim fishing and exploitation of hydrocarbons in the disputed area.

Sources: Address of President Bharrat Jagdeo, 25 February 2004 at http://www.cgxresources.com/press%20releases/040225.htm; Stabroek News (Georgetown), 26 and 27 Feb 2004; Business Wire (Toronto), 26 Feb 2004.

Comment:  During June 2000 the Surinamese navy forced CGX Energy to abandon exploration in an area under license from Guyana.  Meetings by the boundary commissions of the two countries, the most recent in March 2003, failed to resolve the offshore dispute.  The countries dispute about 15,000 sq km along their land boundary, between tributaries of the Corentyne River.  They also disagree about the boundary alignment within the Corentyne along its lower reaches and at its mouth.