The Venezuelan Navy intercepted a Bahama-flagged ship conducting a geological survey on behalf of ExxonMobil the waters of neighboring Guyana, according to a Saturday statement from the nation's Foreign Ministry.
The ship, Ramform Tethys, easily recognizable by its wide, almost triangular, hull, belongs to the Norwegian company Petroleum Geo-Services (PGS). According to PGS spokesman Bard Stenberg, the Tethys was conducting seismic survey work on behalf of ExxonMobil, when Venezuelan Navy ships approached.
Buque Ramform Tethys, perteneciente a la empresa noruega, Petroleum Geo-Services, la cual realizaba trabajos a nombre de @exxonmobil, detuvo su trabajo de exploración luego de ser abordado por un buque de la armada venezolana. #23Dic pic.twitter.com/4hnImETD93— MundoTv2.0 (@MundoTv20) 23 декабря 2018 г.
The ship came to a stop and turned eastward as soon as it was approached by the Venezuelan Navy, Stenberg said in a statement.
"Guyana rejects this illegal, aggressive and hostile act," Guyana's foreign ministry said in a statement on Saturday, adding that the move "demonstrates the real threat to Guyana's economic development by its western neighbor" and "violates the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country."
The Guyanese Foreign Ministry said it will file a complaint to the United Nations, as well as send a formal communication to the current Venezuelan government regarding the incident.
Georgetown also noted that it would inform the governments of various nations that the 70 crew members aboard the ship experienced a "threat to their safety," according to the statement.
Caracas has previously criticized Georgetown for authorizing oil exploration operations in the waters of Essequibo region, claimed by Venezuela. Essequibo comprises almost one-third of Guyanese territory.
Guyana points out that Venezuela relinquished the territory following a ruling by an international tribunal in 1899, a decision that Caracas has since refuted. The United Nations earlier this year referred the dispute to the International Court of Justice, a move welcomed by Georgetown but criticized by Caracas, according to Reuters.