A former Energy and Petroleum Minister, Emmanuel Armah Kofi Buah, has said that the ruling of the Special Chamber of the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), in favor of Ghana in a three-year-long maritime dispute with Côte d'Ivoire, will boost the country’s economic fortunes.
He believes the level of uncertainty which prevented giant oil companies from investing in Ghana’s upstream petroleum sector due to the Chamber’s moratorium on further oil exploration in the disputed area, has been cleared by the ruling, restoring investors confidence in the sector.
Speaking to Citi News shortly after the ruling, the former minister said the judgement puts Ghana’s upstream petroleum sector on a path of greater heights.
“What this ruling means is that, Ghana’s petroleum sector is going to experience a boom. Remember there were a lot of activities that were halted because of this court case. We believe that we are going to see the return of these investments. I know that Hess Petroleum is the first to come, and a lot of big players will follow. So we see a very bright future for Ghana’s Oil and Gas sector,” he said.
The Special Chamber in a unanimous decision on Saturday September 23, 2017, ruled that there has not been any violation on the part of Ghana on Côte d'Ivoire's maritime boundary.
It rejected Côte d'Ivoire's argument that Ghana's coastal lines were unstable, noting that Ghana has not violated Côte d'Ivoire's sovereign rights with its oil exploration in the disputed basin.
Justice Boualem Bouguetaia, President of the Special Chamber in reading the judgment, accepted Ghana's argument of adoption of the equidistance method of delineation of the maritime boundary.
In consideration of the new boundary, the Chamber determined that it starts from boundary 55 -200 nautical miles away, a position much closer to what Ghana was arguing for.
Analysts say Ghana would now have to wait to see how the final map looks, once the coordinates are plotted in the sea using boundary pillar BP 55+ on a common land boundary, as a starting point for drawing the new equidistance line.
In 2014, Ghana took the case to ITLOS to dispel claims it has encroached Cote d'Ivoire's marine borders as part of oil exploration activities at Cape Three Points, off the shores of the Western Region.
Ghana's defense held that Cote d'Ivoire was barred from demanding ownership to the disputed area it had acknowledged that Ghana owned the space without any qualms in the decades leading up to the oil discovery.
The oral hearings for the dispute were concluded in February 2017.
Ghana's oil discovery
In 2007, Ghana discovered oil and gas in commercial quantities, and this was followed by Cote d'Ivoire staking its claim to portions of the West Cape Three Points.
These claims were renewed in 2010 after Vanco, an oil exploration and production company announced the discovery of oil in the Dzata-1 deepwater-well.
Cote d'Ivoire petitioned the United Nations asking for a completion of the demarcation of its maritime boundary with Ghana, and Ghana responded by setting up of the Ghana Boundary Commission.
This commission was tasked with the responsibility of negotiating with Côte d'Ivoire towards finding a lasting solution to the problem.
But this commission bore no fruit, and in September 2014, Ghana dragged Cote d'Ivoire to ITLOS after 10 failed negotiations.
ITLOS's first ruling in 2015 placed a moratorium on new projects, with old projects continuing after Cote d'Ivoire filed for preliminary measures and urged the tribunal to suspend all activities on the disputed area until the definitive determination of the case.
The moratorium prevented Tullow Oil from drilling additional 13 wells. Tullow thus drilled eleven  wells in Ghana's first oil field.