Bahamas and Cuba reported to have penned maritime delimitation treaty
(1 November 2011)
Reports from several news agencies indicate that the Bahamas and Cuba signed a maritime delimitation treaty on 4 October 2011 in Nassau. The foreign ministries of both states have not confirmed reports, nor have any details of the agreement been released. If a delimitation treaty has been signed between the two island neighbours, it will be the first maritime delimitation treaty worldwide penned this year, and the first for the Bahamas.
From a notional tripoint with the United States south of the Florida Keys, the potential Bahamas-Cuba maritime boundary would be drawn south eastward through the narrow Old Bahama Channel between the dense fringe of islands close off the northern coastline of the main island of Cuba, and a number of small, isolated cays and islands that form the southern fringe of the Great Bahama Bank. Based on their respective defined baselines, a lengthy central section of the possible boundary would divide their respective 12 nautical mile territorial seas within the narrow channel before continuing south east towards an undefined tripoint with Haiti. The south eastern section would be delimited between the eastern coast of mainland Cuba and the large Bahamian island of Inagua. Given the distances between several of the Bahamas islands and keys it is possible that sections of the potential boundary could have been constructed from Bahamian archipelagic baselines, rather than points situated on land territory.
There are no known maritime or territorial disputes that would have complicated delimitation, although the disparity in coastal lengths of various features may have been a factor. The Bahamas defined archipelagic baselines in 2008 and Cuba defined a system of straight baselines in 1985. Neither state has protested the others’ baseline claims. Although currently there is moratorium on offshore drilling in Bahamian waters, the Bahamas Petroleum Company has welcomed the agreement, indicating that it will pave the way for possible exploration in prospective areas.
Sources: ‘Bahamas and Cuba sign maritime delimitation agreement’ The Maritime Executive, 10 October 2011; ‘40 years on, deal over maritime borders is signed with Cuba’ Celeste Nixon, The Tribune (Bahamas) 4 October 2011; ‘Oil explorer sees ‘major risk’ removed’ Neil Hartnell, The Tribune (Bahamas), 4 October 2011; ‘Bahamas, Cuba sign maritime boundaries agreement’ Royston Jones Jr, The Nassau Guardian, 4 October 2011; ‘DPM: Bahamas and Cuba agree on maritime border’ Chester Robards, The Nassau Guardian, 12 May 2011.