UPDATE 3-Venezuela to free seized oil survey ship, owner says
* Caracas prosecuting ship's captain
* Latest incident in century-old maritime clash
* Crew includes citizens of eight countries
CARACAS, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Venezuela has agreed to free a U.S.-chartered oil survey ship and 36 crew members seized last week in a territorial dispute with neighboring Guyana, the boat's owner said on Tuesday.
The Teknik Perdana was carrying out a seabed survey for Texas-based Anadarko in conjunction with Guyanese authorities when Venezuela's navy boarded it on Thursday and escorted it to Margarita island.
Venezuela accused the ship of violating its maritime territory, reviving a century-old dispute with Guyana.
The government of Guyana, a former British colony of 750,000 people, said the Panama-flagged ship was well within its territory and the seizure was an act of aggression.
The boat's Malaysian owner, SapuraKencana Petroleum, said that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government had decided to free the vessel.
"We wish to express our gratitude to the Venezuelan government for caring for the safety and welfare of the crew, which comprises multiple nationalities, during the time they were at Margarita island and also for releasing the vessel," the Kuala Lumpur-based company said in a statement.
Anadarko spokesman John Christiansen thanked Venezuelan and Guyanese authorities for apparently resolving the affair.
"We are pleased that all 36 crew members of the MV Teknik Perdana and the vessel will reportedly be released in the near future. We extend our gratitude to the crew of the vessel, which has handled itself with the utmost professionalism throughout," he said in a statement.
A third company - Texas-based researcher TDI-Brooks International whose scientists were on the ship - confirmed the imminent release.
"A decision has been reached to release the ship and all 36 members of the crew. It's just a matter of getting through the final protocols and processes so that can happen," TDI-Brooks' director of operations Peter Tatro told Reuters.
But Venezuela did not confirm the release, and its public prosecutor's office said the ship's Ukrainian captain, Igor Bekirov, had been charged at Margarita with failing to respect the boundaries of a security zone.
He was awaiting further court appearances, it said.
Guyanese officials said the ship's three dozen crew members include citizens of eight countries: the United States, Russia, France, Indonesia, Brazil, Malaysia, Panama and Ukraine.
Oil companies have been increasingly interested in the northeastern shoulder of South America since a discovery off nearby French Guyana in 2011 that industry experts described as a game-changer for the region's energy prospects.
Guyana awarded Anadarko Petroleum a deep-water exploration license in June last year for a block named Roraima.
Venezuela and Guyana have long argued about the status of the disputed Essequibo region, an area on the border about the size of the U.S. state of Georgia, and over rights to the ocean resources that lie offshore.
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