International arbitration sought over Gambian oil licenses

African Petroleum tries to assure its shareholders to be patient while it works to protect its offshore assets.
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  Oct. 18, 2017 at 8:00 AM
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Oct. 18 (UPI) -- After hinting of trouble earlier this week, African Petroleum said it was now pursuing legal routes to protect its assets off the coast of Gambia.

The company said that its subsidiaries in Gambia filed requests for arbitration at an international dispute chamber to protect two of its offshore licenses.

"We believe arbitration is necessary to protect our interests in these licenses in which we have made significant investment over the years," CEO Jens Pace said in a statement.

Two Gambian blocks combine for an estimated 1 billion barrels of unrisked barrels of oil and are in close proximity to the SNE oil field offshore Senegal, one of the largest finds in recent years. West African countries have been at odds over their maritime borders, while officials there have been vetting their corporate options as the potential for oil evolves.

Pace said that he was keeping a tight lid on the details of the dispute, adding only that his company was in "constructive dialogue" with Gambian authorities. His message to shareholders was to be patient.

African Petroleum said it's been working to resolve contractual disputes with the Gambian government at least since early July, when company officials met with Gambian President Adama Barrow at the nation's capital, Banjul. The company at the time said the terms of its license agreements were too restrictive.

African Petroleum has assets in Gambia, Senegal, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone. Of those, Senegal holds the most oil in its territorial waters, but much of the region is unexplored and the full potential has yet to be realized.

The company sought to reassure investors Monday that some of the more promising oil basins off the coast of West Africa are close to the point of pay off despite recent setbacks.

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