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IBRU: Centre for Borders Research

Boundary news

Boundary news Headlines

Norway and Russia sign historic maritime boundary agreement

(17 September 2010)

Norway-Russia maritime boundary map

On 15 September 2010 the foreign ministers of Norway and Russia, alongside their respective heads of state, signed an agreement on delimitation of the two countries' maritime boundary in the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean which marks the end of decades of negotiation.

Norway and Russia defined a short section of their maritime boundary from the land boundary terminus through the confines of Varangerfjord in 1957. The boundary was extended through the innermost 73 km of the disputed area in a 2007 agreement but both sides continued to dispute the lengthy section extending northwards through the Barents Sea and into the Arctic Ocean. Norway had long advocated a median line boundary while Russia (and the Soviet Union previously) argued for a 'sectoral' approach which would have extended the maritime boundary north along the 32° 4' 35" E meridian, deviating slightly to the east around the area covered by the Svalbard Treaty of 1920.

Defined by eight points, the new maritime boundary divides the area of previously overlapping claims more or less equally. The endpoint is defined as the intersection of a line extending from point 7 through point 8 with the as-yet undefined edge of the two parties' continental shelves in the Arctic Ocean. In the area to the east of the boundary which lies within 200 nm of the Norwegian mainland but more than 200 nm from Russian territory, the agreement grants Russia the EEZ rights that would otherwise fall to Norway (this “Special Area” is similar to those established in the vicinity of the Russia-USA maritime boundary in 1990).

The agreement stipulates that it will not affect existing arrangements on fisheries cooperation and Annex I extended several existing temporary fisheries agreements that date from the 1970s. However, the agreement effectively terminates the 'Grey Zone' fishing arrangement of 1978. As with most recent maritime boundary agreements, Norway and Russia also agreed to negotiate a cooperative unitisation arrangement if any hydrocarbon structure was found to straddle the maritime boundary. Annex II carefully details the rights and obligations for setting up a unitisation arrangement as well as provisions for dispute settlement.

Both governments have praised the agreement believing that it will facilitate off shore licensing and pave the way for future hydrocarbon exploration while also maintaining the cooperative fisheries arrangements that have developed over several decades. The agreement will now be submitted to the two national parliaments for ratification.

The text of the agreement and an illustrative map of the boundary are available from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. The new boundary is also depicted on an updated version of IBRU's map of maritime jurisdiction and boundaries in the Arctic region.

Source: 'Treaty on maritime delimitation and cooperation in the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean signed today' Press Release No. 118, Office of the Prime Minister (Norway), 15 September 2010.