False and Misleading Expectations On Guyana’s Oil Bonanza

By Stephen Kangal
February 25, 2020

Stephen KangalIn a Statement delivered at the Opening of the Energy Conference recently Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley dishonestly sought to create false and misleading expectations in an election year namely that:

– T&T can gain continental shelf-access to and cash in on the huge hydrocarbon producing resources currently being exploited by Guyana, sometime in the future;
– by getting the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental to agree to extend the maritime limits of T&T beyond 200 miles measured from its straight archipelagic baselines promulgated in 1986 by Order in complete violation of the provisions of the 2006 T&T/Barbados Arbitral Tribunal Award, the 1993 TT/Venezuela Delimitation Agreement and the tenets of the 1986 Law of the Sea Convention.

On the basis of the 2006 T&T/Barbados Award T&T became a zone-locked state with no point located beyond 200 miles. It is hemmed in by Barbados, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada to the North, Venezuela to the West, South and East and Barbados and Venezuela/Guyana to the East.

T&T does not have either maritime jurisdiction or control over any maritime areas actual or potential located beyond 200 miles that can be subsumed now or in the future under the regime of the Continental Shelf of the Law of the Sea Convention.

It is a zone-locked state for all intents and purposes.

How therefore can any responsible Prime Minister in opening a major Energy Conference in his own Capital City in the presence of technical experts and in the face of a precariously dwindling domestic and off-shore energy sector and current closures at Point Lisas suggest that T&T is potentially near to and can share in Guyana’s eight billion cretaceous high yielding hydrocarbon province?

The UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf cannot alter the decision of a duly constituted Arbitral Tribunal to accord jurisdiction and control (Continental shelf rights) to T&T beyond 200 miles on the extended Continental Shelf when T&T possesses no such access—real or imaginary or potential?

The Commission is a technical advisory group made up of hydrographers and geologists of international repute—not a Law of the Sea adjudicating institution.

This is a red herring being tangled in front of us by a bankrupt regime with no strategic ideas on how to treat with the many maritime challenges that we still face with Guyana, Barbados and Venezuela.

Their only solution is closures after closures with Lake Asphalt next on the chopping block with no alternative approaches.

6 Responses to “False and Misleading Expectations On Guyana’s Oil Bonanza”


  • Article 76 of UNCLOS (United Nations Convention of the Law of Sea) allows costal states to extend their juridical Continental Shelf beyond the 200 nautical mile limit.
    “The international legal regime of the continental shelf was largely adopted in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea without change from that in the 1958 Geneva Convention on the Continental Shelf. What was added in the 1982 Convention was that all States have a legal shelf out to 200 nautical miles (nm) and that beyond 200 nm there is a formula and process for States to establish their outer limit of the shelf. Amongst the several developments that have taken place in the last 30 years respecting the continental shelf regime noted in this article, the most surprising is the number of States that have indicated that they have an area of shelf beyond 200 nm, which far exceeds the number of States seen in 1982 as having such a possibility.” From The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law
    The technicalities of extending the Continental Shelf are best left up to qualified geologists, preferable those with a PhD in Geology.

  • That statement extracted from the Marine Journal does a great disservice to UNCLOS 1986.There is indeed a fundamental revision of the 1958 definition of the Continental shelf in the 1986 Convention on the Law of the Sea that I have in front of me.It is more comprehensive and far reaching even distance wise. I will ignore this quotation as being false and utterly misleading- deliberately economical with the true aspects of the regime of the continental shelf as it is codified and understood today.
    In T&T we have to first establish whether we have through our agreed maritime boundaries any maritime areas located beyond two hundred nautical miles.The simple answer is no. Geologists cannot give and work on what law has not allocated nor made available or written in our law books. T&T has no maritime area that can be the basis for extending our CS up to 350 miles or the edge of the continental margin. We did this up to 2005 from 1990 with Venezuela. But the judgment of the Arbitral Tribunal of 2006 completely zone-locked T&T leaving no access real or imagined to the outer C/S. That was the injustice meted out to T&T when Barbados bribed all the Tribunal members to deliberately zone-lock us.Whatever prolonged continental shelf was had or that Nature gifted us was taken away by the midnight robbers of the contaminated Tribunal. To appreciate this salient point you have to look at a map or chart with all the boundaries inserted and you will see that Barbados hems us in the North and East and Venezuela in the south as well as eastwards. I have been singing this mantra since the day of the Tribunal’s Judgement but no one in the East-West Corridor listens to the voice of an Indo-Trinidadian however right, correct and factually convincing he is or may be. This is we karma in an Afro-configured society where what matters is who said it and what was said. THE PNM does not understand the impact of the Judgment on the interest of T&T having being totally misled by former AG John Jeremie.

  • ”(Article 1 of the 1958 Convention on the Law of the Sea)
    For the purpose of these articles, the term “continental shelf” is used as
    referring (a) to the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas adjacent to the
    coast but outside the area of the territorial sea, to a depth of 200 metres or,
    beyond that limit, to where the depth of the superjacent waters admits of the
    exploitation of the natural resources of the said areas; (b) to the seabed and
    subsoil of similar submarine areas adjacent to the coasts of islands.”
    This is the 1958 Definition of the Regime of the Continental shelf that was fundamentally changed and wholly re-written by the 1986 Convention in Article 76

  • 1986 UNCLOS Fundamentally Changes the 1958 CS Definition

    I set out below the fundamental changes/ new criteria effected to the 1958 definition of the Concept of the Continental Shelf by UNCLOS 1986 at Article 76 and following. The CS Regime was indeed overtaken by the regime of the EEZ that is also 200 miles maximum measured from the relevant base-lines but inclusive of the seabed, subsoil, sovereign rights over the resources of the superjacent water column but not over the air-space. Most states opt for the EEZ because it is more comprehensive but the CS is restrictive.

    Here are the criteria:
    1. Must constitute the natural prolongation of the land territory in areas located beyond the 200 mile limits whereas in lesser areas it is a distance of 200 miles from the baselines and the geological or geo-morphological criteria do not restrict the distance criteria claim of 200 miles.

    2. Location permitting it can extend to 200 miles minimum replacing the 200 metre isobath and the exploitability criteria of the 1958 Convention
    3. Overtaken by the new regime of the EEZ that makes the CS redundant before 200 miles as set out in Articles 55-75 because the EEZ is more inclusive of the seabed, subsoil, water column etc
    4 New detailed criteria (geological, geomorphological and distance combinations) for establishing the boundary with the new regime of the International Seabed Authority (High Seas area) that is based in Kingston Jamaica;
    5 Making payments to the ISA from exploration and exploitation activities undertaken in maritime areas located beyond 200 miles from the relevant coastlines but not before 200 miles.

  • I have been singing this mantra since the day of the Tribunal’s Judgement but no one in the East-West Corridor listens to the voice of an Indo-Trinidadian however right, correct and factually convincing he is or may be. This is we karma in an Afro-configured society where what matters is who said it and what was said.(KANGAL)

    If you believe this Mr. Kangal, I believe that you have a problem.
    It is not necessary to drag race into this issue.There are many Indian voices that are well-respected and listened to in T&T.
    Comments like yours divide and inflame many usually rational voices in T&T.

    • Since 2003 I have been writing on this subject especially the T&T/Barbados boundary matter and I cannot understand why no one in authority is paying attention. I am totally convinced it is who is saying it is the problem. Check my archive on this site for my articles on this subject since much bread and butter is involved

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