Italian Energy Drilling Ship Arrives Off Cypriot Coast

FILE - Children play on a beach during a warm day, with a drilling platform seen in the background, outside from Larnaca port. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

With Turkey protesting Cyprus’ licensing of international companies to drill for oil and gas off the island’s coast, a ship owned by Italy’ ENI entered the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone and plans to start operating soon.

The Saipem 12000 will anchor at the Kalypso field of the zone’s Block 6, to begin exploratory drilling for hydrocarbons, officials said, with the process is expected to last for about a month, followed by another drilling for ENI at the Soupia, or Cuttlefish field of Block 3.

ENI Chief Executive Officer Claudio Descalzi earlier said he was optimistic despite earlier international drillings that failed to show there were any substantial finds. He said ENI nonetheless thinks there is a good supply of gas and has invested 150 million euros ($179.02 million) to look for it.

As it has before and was ignored, Cyprus’ government is protesting plans by Turkey, which has occupied the northern third of the island since an unlawful 1974 invasion, to drill for energy in waters where international companies have been licensed.

Turkey had sent a warship and energy research vessel into sovereign Cypriot waters before  and issued what the Cypriot government called an unlawful NAVTEX reserving the area for its own exploration in violation of international laws Ankara doesn’t recognize.

“We are ready to face Turkey`s threats and plans for illegal drilling in Cyprus` Exclusive Economic Zone, as we have done so far, in an effective and cool manner,” Deputy Government Spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos said, adding that official protests would also be lodged although it hasn’t deterred Turkey yet.

France’s Total and Italy’s Eni will start drilling for oil and gas off Cyprus by the end of the year or early in 2018, the island’s President Nicos Anastasiades said.

The work will be a joint exploration in an area designated as Block 6 after disappointing results in Block 11. Turkey, which has unlawfully occupied the northern third of the island since a 1974 invasion, said the legitimate government and international companies have no right to operate and said it would claim any share of potentially lucrative findings while also sending in an energy research vessel of its own.