An international tribunal on Saturday ordered Ghana not to carry out any new oil drilling activities in waters disputed with Ivory Coast, pending a final judgement.
The African oil-producing neighbours took their case to the Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea after months of fruitless negotiations.
Abidjan had asked the body to suspend all ongoing oil exploration and exploitation by Ghana, but the interim ruling did not go as far that, saying doing so would risk “considerable financial loss to Ghana” and could possibly harm the marine environment.
The body instead told Ghana to “take all necessary steps to ensure that no new drilling… takes place in the disputed area”.
The maritime border between the two countries cuts through offshore oil fields that both nations are eager to exploit, but there are claims the boundary has not been properly demarcated.
The area in dispute is believed to hold the biggest hydrocarbon resources discovered in West Africa for the last decade.
Ahead of a final ruling on precisely where the maritime border lies, the tribunal ordered both parties to “pursue cooperation and refrain from any unilateral action that might lead to aggravating the dispute”.
Both Ghana and Ivory Coast have denied that the lawsuit signalled a change in relations between the two countries, which are west Africa’s second- and third-largest economies respectively.
Ghana is a major producer of gold and cocoa and began commercial oil production in 2010 from the Jubilee oil field along its western border, which produces 100,000 barrels per day.
Russia’s Lukoil and its US partner Vanco are running the offshore sites.
Ivory Coast, which is the world’s largest producer of cocoa, is looking to boost its existing offshore oil production as well as to encourage a revival of its mining and agriculture sectors after a decade of conflict.