A US-chartered oil exploration ship seized by the Venezuelan navy in Caribbean waters disputed with neighboring Guyana has arrived at Venezuela’s Margarita Island.
Venezuelan authorities say the ship’s 36 crew members, including five US citizens, will be held on board while an investigation continues.
Admiral Angel Belisario Martinez told local station Union Radio on Sunday that the research ship was conducting "unauthorised scientific work" in Venezuela’s exclusive economic zone.
He said the case had been turned over to prosecutors.
The vessel was conducting a seismic study for Anadarko Petroleum under a concession from Guyana.
Guyana’s government says the crew was well within Guyana’s territorial waters.
On Friday, 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.
"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.