Ghana-Cote D’Ivoire Maritime Border Dispute: Update

We might be in for a BIG SHOCKER if The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) grants Ivory Coast the temporary provisional measures they seek which is for Ghana to suspend all oil exploration and exploitation operations under way in the maritime boundary areas on the dispute concerning delimitation of the maritime boundary between Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire in the Atlantic Ocean (Ghana/Côte d’Ivoire).

The Special Chamber begun taking arguments from both sides last week and this is expected to continue in the coming week. ITLOS is expected to give its “full verdict” on the dispute in late 2017, although a decision on the “preliminary measures” filed by Cote d’Ivoire is expected end of April 2015. I am keenly following the case as the developments could bode ill for Ghana’s emerging oil and gas industry even at the prima facie level should the provisional measures be granted come April 2015 — The TEN field will have to be suspended for at least 2 years!

I’ve watched all the first round of Oral arguments and it’s really interesting. The Ivorians are being very very tactical by raising some fundamental prima facie arguments – i.e. that Ghana acted fait accompli and without recourse to the existing provisions by awarding blocks even though the knew the area was disputed. That is, oil is finite and by doing so, this could harm Ivory Coast’s permanent interests and energy security. The Ivorians are at the Court not to plead the substantive issues, but seek merely to raise the probability at the prima facie level that should Ghana proceed with ongoing petroleum exploration and production activities, then given the existing dispute, this could harm their economic interests.

Representing Ghana is the Attorney General, Mrs. Brew Appiah-Oppong, officials of Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Finance, GNPC, Petroleum Commission, EPA, and other private counsel – namely Reindorf Chambers (Ghana), Matrix Chambers (UK) and Foley Hoag LLP (USA). The second round of oral argument continues Monday, 30 March 2015. 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. ===> Côte d’Ivoire and 3 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. ===> Ghana

Key links and Documents:

  1. Code D’Ivoire Request (112 pages): https://www.itlos.org/…/case_no.23_…/Request_annexes_Eng.pdf
  2. Video Webcast of Proceedings (includes first round of oral arguments):https://www.itlos.org/en/cases/webcast-archives-case-no-23/ 
  3. Case No. 23 (Provisional Measures): https://www.itlos.org/…/ca…/case-no-23-provisional-measures/
  4. Written Statement of Ghana: https://www.itlos.org/…/Vol._I_-_Written_Statement_of_Ghana…
  5. Written Statement of Ghana Volume III: https://www.itlos.org/…/written-statement-of-ghana-volume-…/
Ghana’s Disputed Oil Blocks in the Maritime Area | Source: ITLOS

About the Author

Theo Acheampong
Theo is an economist and social media enthusiast who provides regular commentary on socioeconomic and political developments in Ghana and Africa at large. Theo is passionate about leadership, entrepreneurship and the role of innovative technologies in solving Africa's developmental challenges.