THE Cyprus government issued a navigational telex (navtex) notification to seafarers on Saturday ahead of the arrival next week of Stena IceMax, a drilling ship commissioned by Exxon Mobil to explore for hydrocarbons in block 10 of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone.
The drillship is expected to arrive within the next two days in the port of Limassol, with the competent authorities issuing the navtex marine advisory valid until February 25 for the target “Delphini”.
“The drilling rig is expected to arrive within the timeframe set, according to schedule, tomorrow or the day after,” a source told the Cyprus News Agency. According to the same source, “everything proceeds smoothly, according to plan.”
The navtex 376/18 issued by Cyprus at 6.00 am local time (4.00 am GMT), informs mariners about the drilling operations of Stena IceMax at the “Delphini” target. Drilling operations are expected to commence on November 15.
A safety zone of 500 meters is established around Stena IceMax and entering this area is prohibited for any reason, the CAN report said.
Violation of the safety zone will be considered as a criminal offence against the laws of the Republic of Cyprus and the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the navtex concludes.
On Friday, the Cyprus official government gazette published a decree issued by the Minister of Transport, aiming to safeguard both the rig and marine navigation during the drilling period.
Exxon Mobil was awarded, together with Qatar Petroleum the exploration licence in block 10 of Cyprus’ EEZ.
Two weeks ago, a Turkish seismic survey vessel waded into Cyprus’ maritime zone, with reports from Turkey claiming the boat had been harassed en route by a Greek frigate.
The Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa will be conducting surveys in a sea area of 44,000 square kilometres and the Turkish navtex stated that the Barbaros will remain in the area until February 1.
The area reserved by the Turkish navtex is located at the notional boundaries of the respective exclusive zones (EEZs) of Cyprus, Greece and Egypt. Due to political reasons, the three countries have officially not delineated their EEZs with respect to one another.
The reserved area also borders Cyprus’ offshore blocks 4 and 5, parts of which Turkey claims fall within its ‘continental shelf’.
The southeasternmost tip of the area is approximately 100 km from the two sites in block 10 which ExxonMobil has earmarked for drilling.
Local media speculated that Turkey’s intent in deploying the Barbaros was to convey a political message, namely making its presence felt in the area during the same time that ExxonMobil will be drilling exploratory wells for gas in block 10.
Turkey has repeatedly vowed to stop Cyprus from extracting and monetising its offshore gas reserves.
In February this year, Turkish warships prevented a drilling rig from approaching an exploratory well in Cyprus’ block 3 on behalf of Italian energy giant ENI.