One of the two ExxonMobil research vessels scheduled to carry out explorations in block 10 of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) departed from Greece on Sunday and is headed towards Limassol port, according to marinetraffic.com.
Ocean Investigator has been moored at the port of Lavrio, Greece. The second vessel Med Surveyor was still located off the port of Haifa, Israel on Sunday.
The former is expected at Limassol port in the next 48 hours.
The two ships are headed ultimately to Cyprus’ block 10. They will be deploying remotely-operated underwater vehicles which will take further readings of the seabed at three selected locations in block 10.
Their purpose is to gather more data to narrow down the most likely targets for gas drilling, which ExxonMobil is planning during the second half of the year.
ExxonMobil will reportedly be drilling two back-to-back exploratory wells in late summer or early autumn.
What remains to be seen is whether Turkey will intervene with the two survey ships heading for block 10, in the same way it blockaded ENI’s drillship Saipem 12000 recently, stopping it from carrying out its mission. Though Ankara does not lay claim to hydrocarbons in block 10, the Turkish Cypriot side has threatened that plans in all of Cyprus’ EEZ blocks would be stopped by Ankara.
According to a report in Kathimerini on Sunday, both ExxonMobil and the Cyprus government have studied closely what happened in block 3 and feel certain there will be no Turkish interference this time around, the paper said, citing sources.
All the relevant preparations have been completed in order for the two ships to reach their final destination and to proceed seamlessly with their work, the paper said.
Although speculation was rife during the week that a fleet of US warships was in the region and attempts were made to link the move to ExxonMobil’s plan, this was denied by the US navy.
Also, Turkey has issued a new navigational warning this weekend bounding the island’s east, south, and western coasts from Monday through tuso next Sunday and also from March 22 to 29.
According to the warning, which also skirts an offshore block earmarked for natural gas exploration by the republic, a Turkish warship will be towing an underwater device during that time.
Cyprus responded by issuing its own Navtex stating that Turkey’s action had not been authorised by the republic.