Venezuela has released a US-operated oil exploration ship and all 36 crew members, its Malaysian owners said Tuesday, five days after it was detained in disputed waters off its coast.

SapuraKencara Petroleum said in a statement the vessel it had contracted out to Texas-based Anadarko Petroleum which was conducting a seabed survey on behalf of neighbouring Guyana.

The vessel was boarded on Thursday by the Venezuelan navy and sailed to Margarita Island, the company said.

"The survey work was being conducted by Teknik Perdana, a non-military vessel whose sole purpose is undertake oil and gas related survey work," it said.

Five US citizens were among the crew of the ship, according to the State Department.

Venezuela's foreign ministry had said the Teknik Perdana was "carrying out illegal activities" within an ocean border area claimed by Caracas.

Guyana earlier said the ship had not strayed from its waters before being intercepted off the coast of Esequiba, a 159,500 square kilometer border region rich in natural resources that Venezuela has claimed since 1897.

In late August, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his Guyanese counterpart, Donald Ramotar, said that they were moving to resolve the dispute and would continue to seek help from United Nations mediators to solve the conflict.

Source: AFP