Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Bangladesh hoping to offer disputed offshore blocks

The government of Bangladesh is hoping to offer a number of gas and oil blocks in April after a UN tribunal rules on its maritime border dispute with Myanmar later this month.

The head of the national energy company Petrobangla's PSC department, Muhammah Imaduddin, said on 7 March that “We are planning to offer at least two to three deepwater gas blocks in the planned April bidding round if Bangladesh gets legitimate right over the deepwater blocks”.

The tribunal is set to issue its ruling on 14 March; the relevant lawsuit was filed by Dhaka in late 2010 after a naval flotilla from Myanmar entered Bangladesh's waters to explore for resources.

Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Bangladesh is claiming an area ranging from 390 to 460 nautical miles southward from its coastline. Dhaka remains in talks with India over a separate maritime boundary issue. The disputes with its neighbours have hindered exploration of oil and gas reserves, which are desperately needed to tackle the country's energy shortages. In 2009 Tullow halted work in its two offshore blocks due to the maritime border dispute.

The government has expressed its determination to defend itself. Foreign Minister Dipu Moni said that “we will not stop from taking the legal route to achieve legitimate demands from our neighbours”.

The deepwater offshore gas blocks, located in the Bay of Bengal, may be highly productive. Bangladesh is banking on the tribunal ruling in its favour, and so avoiding a further – and increasingly political – stand-off with Myanmar.

Sources: Platts, Financial Express Bangladesh

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