The sultanate has awarded a contract to Singapore-based company Gardline CGG to help provide survey vessels for the continental shelf extension project. A contract signing ceremony was held in Muscat recently between the company and Ministry of Foreign Affairs on behalf of the Government of Oman.

The Omani side was represented by Salim bin Abdullah al Alawi, head of the Continental Shelf and Maritime Affairs, while Maxime Even, marketing and operations manager at Gardline CGG, represented the company. The agreement aims to prepare a comprehensive file to complete the extension of the continental shelf procedures in accordance with Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The process requires a detailed science-based submission to be compiled and then presented to the United Nations demonstrating the link between Oman’s landmass and its offshore continental shelf area 200 nautical miles from its coastline. During the tendering process, five companies had initially shown interest, but only three offered firm bids.

Horizon Survey Company submitted a bid of RO5,468,000, while IIC Technologies Limited offered a bid of RO4,974,628. Gardline CGG’s, the company that got the contract, offer was the highest at RO7,315,428. As a producer of onshore oil and gas, Oman sees potential to increase its petroleum production by a more extensive exploration of its offshore territory.

A successful submission to the UN will give it exclusive rights over a large area of seabed in the Arabian Sea beyond its 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). In 2013, Oman had signed a consultancy and supervision services contract with New Zealand-based GNS for extending the outer limits of the sultanate’s continental shelf.

Alawi said that the project was very important for the security and economic development of Oman, and that the continental shelf is a natural extension of the sultanate’s territories. According to the UN, a coastal country, which proves its right as per the requirements of the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, may extend its continental shelf up to a maximum of 350 nautical miles from the base point.

The main purpose for such an extension is to explore for oil and gas and other mineral resources. Oman’s Continental Shelf Boundaries Extension Committee was formed in 2008 following a decision of the Council of Ministers to follow up on the issue.

EEZ is a sea zone prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea over which a state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.