Notes From The Margin

July 29, 2008

Venezuela Presses Its Claim – The Propaganda War Starts

We have tracked two stories on Venezuela’s claim of Barbados’ waters in the Venezuelan media today. The tone of one is actually quite strident.

The first article:

NGO reports Barbados is bidding oil blocks in Venezuelan waters

The government of Barbados has launched an oil and gas bid for 26 offshore blocks, two of which are allegedly located in part in Venezuelan waters, claimed on Monday Aníbal Martínez, head of non-governmental organization Frente Nacional Pro Defensa del Petróleo Venezolano (National Front for the Defense of Venezuelan Oil).

Martínez said that the government of Barbados put 26 oil and gas blocks for tender stretching more than 70,000 square kilometers. He added that there are two blocks in the bid, called Botton Bay and Crane Bay, 70 percent of whose area would be in Venezuelan waters.

“This amounts to an area of 5,200 square kilometers. It is a hostile act on the part of Barbados, and we have to be on alert. Even if it was one square centimeter, we cannot let this to happen,” said the Venezuelan oil expert.

The second article is a follow up

Claims of sale of oil licenses by Barbados

Venezuelan Minister of Energy and Petroleum Rafael Ramírez reported that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in possession of the evidence attesting to the sale by Barbados of licenses for oil drilling in Venezuelan maritime areas.

“We took the official letter to the appropriate channels; the Foreign Ministry is working on it. This has been the case in the past, where countries, well, awarded licenses for areas that are beyond their jurisdiction and by talking, directly speaking, things are eventually placed where they should be,” said the official.

What will also be interesting to watch is the reaction of Caracas to Barbados claims to the outer continental shelf. What is legally Barbados’ southernmost waters Venezuela considers to be its exit to the Atlantic (hence the Trinidad/Venezuela treaty) However Venezuela never made a treaty with Barbados, and Barbados has no reason to negotiate one as it is a small slice of their territory. The Venezuela/Trinidad treaty has no impact on Barbados or Guyana, so it will be interesting to see where this goes.

It is unlikely that this will go away.  Further Barbados has little reason to take on Venezuela’s claims other than Venezuela has the means to agressively enforce its claims on the area by force of arms.

Hopefully this will not go that far.


How Trinidad Recognised Venezuela’s Claim to Most Of Guyana’s Land

Venezuela and Its Claim of Most of Guyana’s Land

Marginal Picks Up His Pen – Venezuela’s Claim of Barbados’ Waters

February 1, 2008

Bird Island Again! – Grenada in Maritime Boundary Dispute With Venezuela.

Venezuela’s claim to Bird Island seems about to become an election issue in Grenada with opposition parties protesting the length of time it is taking to settle the matter.

Now Dr. Alexis’ assertion is usually true, however the arbitrator for these issue is usually the UN Law Of The Sea Treaty, however Venezuela is not a signatory to that treaty. (unsurprisingly as Bird Island does not meet the criteria under that treaty for it’s massive claim of sea space). It is unlikely that Venezuela will  recant it’s claim, and this does appear to be a somewhat intractable problem.
Of course, Grenada like almost everyone else in the Caribbean signed up to the Petro Caribe agreement. It sounds like they are about to find out exacly how the strings are attached.
We will continue to follow this story.
Further reading:

Details on Aves Island – How Venezuela Controls the Caribbean Sea

Venezuela and Bird Island

October 16, 2007

Maybe We Should Look Up The Meaning of “Binding Arbitration”

Filed under: Capitalism,Caribbean,Caricom,Guyana,Law Of The Sea,Petroleum,Suriname,United Nations — notesfromthemargin @ 9:52 pm

Having read the judgement handed down by the United Nations Law of The Sea Council in the Suriname Guyana border dispute it now appears that some parties in Suriname are seeking to find flaws in the ruling.



According to Naarendorp, the award is not fair and equitable, since Guyana has been awarded 65 percent of the 31,600 square kilometers wide former area of dispute while Suriname received the remaining 35 percent….

…The Surinamese experts, in recalculating the equidistance line, more then doubled that number using 45 points for their computations. As a result a new line emerged situated west of the boundary determined by the UN Arbitration panel.


If this line is accepted said Naarendorp, the award will be more equitable and fair, since the area will be partitioned 49 percent for Guyana and 51 percent for Suriname.

Granted the comment comes from a former cabinet minister with a political axe to grind, but one would think that the function of the UNLOS council as a FINAL court of appeal would be self explanatory.



September 22, 2007

UN Law Of The Sea Announces Decision on Guyana Suriname Dispute

Given our general level of interests in Maritime boundaries on this blog, We thought we would let our readers know that the UNLOS council has handed down a decision on the Maritime boundary between Guyana and Suriname.

 The dispute has been the source of considerable friction between the two countries with a Suriname gunboat chasing off an oil exploration bid authorised by the Guyana Government. It would seem that the tribunal sided with Guyana over Suriname’s claims.

In a unanimous vote, the five-judge panel from the Arbitral Tribunal under the Law of the Sea Convention decided to split thousands of square kilometres of offshore blocs largely on the principle of “equidistance”, but in doing so, it took away a large tract of water that Suriname had claimed as its own for decades from neighbouring Guyana…..


…..In June 2000, Suriname’s Ronald Venetiaan administration sent gunboats to expel a rig that was drilling in the disputed area. The rig was leased by Toronto-based CGX Energy Inc, one of the world’s tiniest oil companies, on a concession award granted by Guyana.

The incident brought the two finance-starved former European colonies very close to war, with both massing troops on their borders and allowing military aircraft to over-fly each other’s airspace in a near farcical show of force by two armies with a combined total of no more than 5,000 troops and with less than a dozen planes and vessels under their command.

 We’ve downloaded the judgement (If you are interested its available here)

and we are taking our time going through it.  This border dispute has been the focus of bi-lateral and multilateral efforts under Caricom to resolve it.  Due to the UN it has now been settled once and for all. This clears the way for Oil exploration on both sides of the line. Hopefully this will lead to significant oil finds as few would disagree with me that both Guyana and Suriname are in desperate need of cash.


The news story did have one rather thought provoking point to close on….


Critics, Caricom experts especially, had noted that the intransigence displayed by Suriname and the failure of the two to reach a bilateral deal have cost them billions in revenues as oil prices continue to soar.

Food for thought there….



August 19, 2007

Hurricane Dean – Update on Preparations for Impact

Filed under: Caribbean,Caricom,Cayman Islands,hurricane,Jamaica,meterology,United Nations — notesfromthemargin @ 11:16 am

The site has issued a second update on preparations for an impending impact by Hurricane Dean



14. The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) has been advised by the Meteorological Service of Jamaica that a Hurricane Watch is now in effect for Jamaica as Hurricane Dean continues to move towards the island.

15. The ODPEM has fast-tracked its emergency response activities. The National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) was activated on Saturday August 18. The ODPEM is advising all persons who live along the coastline or in low-lying and flood-prone areas to be on high alert to evacuate once the order is given. The ODPEM will provide the public with information on those specific areas to be evacuated, once this has been deemed necessary.The

17. UN in Jamaica has been in contact with OCHA and requested an UNDAC team of which only one member arrived in view of flights cancellation as airports were temporary closed.

18. UNICEF prepared stock supplies, 4 emergency health kits and 1,000 water containers. Copa Airlines has a flight scheduled on Wednesday 22 August and will allow space for UNICEF loads of relief items.

19. WFP has prepared food stocks in Haiti and is looking into the best way to move them to Jamaica or elsewhere if needed.

20. OFDA has mobilized teams throughout the Caribbean including in Haiti, DR, Jamaica, Belize, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua Haiti

17. Donors, NGOs, international organizations, UN agencies and MINUSTAH attended a meeting called by the Minister of Interior to discuss preparedness measures (including available stocks of emergency items, funds, etc,) taken by different partners and to share information with the Government.

18. The Government requested MINUSTAH to support the evacuation of population in at-risk areas (about 15,000 persons on the corridor Fonds Verrettes – Fonds Parisiens, West department).It was also decided to reinforce warning messages through the radio and television. Another meeting with the National System on Risk and Disaster Management will take place.

19. World Vision Regional staff in Haiti and Dominican Republic have distributed informative materials and alerted communities. Food, clean water, medicines and emergency generators have been prepositioned.

20. WHO have medicines kits ready for 40,000 persons for 3 months and a 120-persons team is on stand-by. Items are pre-positioned in Cayes and Jeremie.

21. UNICEF has pre-positioned items, notably medical equipment and water purification tabs, in Cayes.

22. Various NGOS have prepositioned relief items and personnel such as MSF Belgium, Oxfam GB, ACF, USAID, World Vision, Chemists without Borders, CRD, Care, MDM France and Action Aid. 23. The Canadian Embassy has allocated USD 50,000; the International Development Bank has allocated USD 200,000 and USAID has offered USD 250,000 for the response.

24. ICRC has mobilized Teams in Cayes and Jacmel to collect information, provide logistics support, evacuate wounded and provide chlorine tablets to health centers.

25. OCHA in Haiti will be monitoring the situation overnight. The Caribbean Disaster Response Agency (CDERA)

26. CDERA has noted the potential threat and damage that can result from the impact of this Hurricane Dean and with its Partners is finalizing actions for immediate response and support if warranted.

27. The CDERA Coordinating Unit has contacted the Director General at ODPEM in Jamaica and is working to confirm regional technical and logistics support teams to assist in the response effort.

28. Teams have been placed on standby for providing assistance to the utilities sector. The Eastern Caribbean Donor Group is also prepositioning some members of their team in Jamaica to assist the North Western Caribbean Donor Group.

29. Contact with extra regional agencies is being made to complement regional effort. The CDERA Coordinating Unit continues to monitor the impact and threat of Hurricane Dean and stands ready to provide assistance if warranted.

30. OCHA continues to closely monitor the situation, including through the Regional Office in Panama, and remains in contact, with the Resident Coordinator and will provide further updates on the situation. This situation report together with further information on ongoing emergencies is also available on the OSOCC Internet Website and on the OCHA Internet Website

Dean Heads for Jamaica & Cayman – Islanders Bracing for a Category 5 Hit

Spare a thought tonight for our friends in Jamaica and Cayman who tonight are frantically preparing to take a beating from Hurricane Dean which has grown into a category 4 storm at the time of writing, and is projected to become a catastrophic category 5 storm by tomorrow. A bulletin from the  United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) an excerpt from which appears below shows some of the moves already being made even before the hurricane strikes.


5. Hurricane Dean is predicted to hit the southern coast of Haiti late Saturday (18 August), and is due to hit Jamaica on Sunday (19 August), possibly strengthening to Category 4, with winds between 131 and 155 mph. It could reach Yucatan, Mexico, two days later.

6. UNDP Barbados reported that Barbados and the eastern islands are expected to be clear from the hurricane.

7. In Jamaica, the Director of ODPEM reportedly stated that predictions indicate rough estimates of 32,000- 150,000 displaced persons and up to approximately 10,000 needing temporary shelter.


Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency

8. Regional Response: In response to the threat posed by Hurricane Dean, the CDERA Coordinating Unit is in constant contact with the National Disaster Offices. The CDERA Coordinating Unit is urging States to ensure that all national preparedness and readiness actions are rushed to completion.

9. The CDERA Coordinating Unit internal contingency plan was activated.

10. The CDERA Coordinating Unit has contacted the Director General at ODPEM in Jamaica and is working to confirm regional technical support teams to assist as necessary.

11. A second meeting of the Eastern Caribbean Donor Group (ECDG) was convened on 17 August. Given the preliminary reports received from Dominica and Saint Lucia, it anticipates a Level One or Level two response. As a result the Rapid Needs Assessment Teams (RNAT) will not be deployed at this time.

12. The ECDG also considered the emerging threat to Jamaica and looked at options of providing support to the North Western Donor Group (NWCDG).

13. The Regional Response Mechanism remains on STANDBY, meaning that all elements of the RRM should take the necessary preparatory actions in accordance with their respective plans to ensure that a speedy and efficient response may be mounted if a full activation is declared.

United Nations

14. The United Nations has despatched an UNDAC Team to Jamaica, expected to arrive on Saturday 18 August. UNCT is working with closely with the national authorities.

It looks very grim for both islands at this point all of the models agree on a current path for a direct hit. From what we can see other countries should be readying for a massive relief effort to these islands after the storm. Cayman Islands who have only recently recovered from being devastated by Hurricane Ivan a few years ago, are probably better prepared for this storm that Jamaica, whose last major hurricane was Gilbert in 1988.

We on the margin wish our friends and fellow bloggers in Jamaica and Cayman, the best of luck and we hope to hear from you on Monday.


July 21, 2007

Details on Aves Island – How Venezuela Controls the Caribbean Sea

In a previous article (Venezuela and Bird Island) I talked about Venezuela’s claim on Aves Island. Now Aves Rock (or Island). This island is about 2 meters above sea level at it’s highest point, and is at times completely submerged. However Venezuela has gone to great lengths to make sure that the island is continually inhabited (In a facility built on stilts). We’ll get into the details of why in a minute. But after some careful checking I found some pictures of the “island” that truly give an idea of how big it is.

First, a view of the island from the side of a ship.

Then a shot of the “Permanent Human Habitation” – Note the rubber dingies on the right for scale.

Finally the reason why Venezuela has gone to all of this trouble. The yellow area shows the Venezuelan Economic space, with the effect of Aves Island/Rock.


Under the International Law Of The Sea Aves Island is classified as a rock which does not get the 200mile economic zone, however Venezuela hasn’t signed the UNLOS treaty. This rock effectively removes a significantly removes most of the OECS’ economic zone. The irony is that if Venezuela finds oil in those waters, they’ll sell it to the OECS on REALLY EASY finance terms under Petro Caribe (but at full cost of course!)

So once again…., What does Mr. Chavez get out of Petro Caribe?


July 15, 2007

Location Location Location – Barbados and the Law of The Sea

Filed under: Barbados,Capitalism,Caribbean,Caricom,Law Of The Sea,Petroleum,United Nations — notesfromthemargin @ 3:38 am


Our friends over at Barbados Underground posted an interesting graphic showing the bid block that are now being auctioned off by the Government (UPDATE: The Search For Oil Beyond The Shores Of Barbados Has Started~Can Barbados Become The UAE Of The Caribbean?)

Because of Barbados’ position to the east of the rest of the island chain we control a relatively large amount of real estate under the sea. And what’s even more promising is the current discussions underway to extend the 200 mile limit (the green line) even further. While we are talking about oil today, there is no telling what may (or may not) be out there and when the technology will be developed to go after it.

While there are no guarantees of anything other than rock and clay out there, it does open all sorts of possibilities for the future. In the meantime, I hope they will wait for them to actually find some oil before we start spending the money.



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