Venezuela on Friday said it has detained a US-operated oil exploration ship sent from Guyana in disputed waters off its coast, in a fresh border spat between the two neighbors.
Venezuela's foreign ministry said in a statement that the vessel was detected and intercepted because "it was carrying out illegal activities" within an ocean border area claimed by Caracas.
Guyana earlier said that a Venezuelan navy ship had confronted the Teknik Perdana on Thursday as it explored off the coast of Essequibo.
The ship, contracted to Texas-based Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, was ordered to sail to Margarita Island in Venezuela, the statement from Guyana's foreign ministry said.
"Venezuela expresses its most energetic protest" because of the prospecting and exploratory activities on the "Venezuelan maritime ocean bed" carried out by the Teknik Perdana, Caracas said.
Venezuela and Guyana remain locked in territorial disputes concerning the Essequibo region, a wrangle that dates back to the 19th century.
The Guyana statement said the Teknik Perdana had been conducting a multi-beam survey of the seafloor when it was stopped.
"One point is clear and that is that the Teknik Perdana was in Guyana's waters when this incident took place," the foreign ministry statement said, demanding the immediate release of the ship and its crew.
"The Government of Guyana is of the firm belief that the actions taken by the Venezuelan navy vessel constitute a serious threat to the peace of this sub-region and the Government of Guyana therefore strongly condemns these actions," it added.