HAMBURG (Reuters) – An international maritime tribunal on Saturday ruled that Ghana can continue production in a multi-billion dollar offshore oil development in an area caught up in a border dispute with Ivory Coast, but must not start new exploration.

“The decision means that Ghana can continue production from existing oil fields in the disputed area but not start new exploration,” Judge Boualem Bouguetaia, president of the Special Chamber, told Reuters after the ruling was released.

The ruling will be welcomed by British company Tullow, which heads a consortium developing the $4.9 billion offshore TEN oil and gas project, as well as by the government of Ghana. The project is due to go onstream in mid-2016.

The International Monetary Fund agreed to an aid deal this month to help Ghana restore fiscal stability in the face of a high debt-to-GDP ratio and a stubborn budget deficit, and the government is counting on revenue from the TEN project.

Ivory Coast in February asked the Hamburg-based International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) to issue a moratorium on oil activity by Ghana in the area while legal hearings are held.

The court is expected to make a final ruling on the dispute in 2017 or 2018.