Companies seek release of research vessel and crew detained in Venezuela

Anadarko Petroleum said Monday that crew members on a contracted research vessel, detained by Venezuelan authorities last week, are still safe and cooperating with authorities at Margarita Island in Venezuela.

The independent oil producer, based in The Woodlands, has not yet determined how its operations in the region might be affected by the seizure of the MV Teknik Perdana, which was mapping the sea floor off the coast of Guyana when it was intercepted by a Venezuelan naval ship.

For now, the company is focused solely on working with authorities to secure the release of the vessel and its 36-member crew, said John Christiansen, a spokesman for Anadarko.

“As far as what occurs beyond that, those parts will unfold after we’ve reached a resolution on the people, first,” Christiansen said.

Venezuela, the largest oil producer in South America, and Guyana both contend the research ship was sailing in their sovereign territory in the Caribbean waters, a region the two nations have disputed for decades.

Anadarko has a license to hunt for hydrocarbons off Guyana’s coast, but Venezuelan authorities told the crew of the contracted vessel it was conducting research in Venezuela’s exclusive economic zone, and ordered it to sail to Margarita Island, where the ship arrived Sunday.

“These actions by the Venezuelan naval vessel are unprecedented in Guyana-Venezuela relations,” but the two governments agreed to meet to discuss a solution this week, Guyana’s ministry of foreign affairs said in a written statement on Friday.

Most of the crew, which includes five Americans, work for College Station-based Anadarko contractor TDI-Brooks International, said Peter Tatro, director of operations at TDI-Brooks.

Tatro said he could only speculate how the seizure would affect the company’s operations off the Guyana coast.

“At the end of the day, we respect the issue of sovereignty, which needs to be addressed,” Tatro said.