ICJ delimits Romania-Ukraine maritime boundary
(3 February 2009)
Contrary to the claims of a number of early news reports, the ICJ decided that it was not necessary to determine whether Serpent’s Island is a rock or an island in order to delimit the maritime boundary. However, apart from a very short section (between identified points 1 and 2) of the adjudged boundary that follows a 12 nm arc measured from Serpent’s Island, the ICJ ignored this feature in the construction of the boundary. Beyond point 2, the boundary was addressed in two discrete sections. The first section, extending east southeast from point 2 to point 4, was defined laterally along the equidistance line measured from the two adjacent coastlines on the western shoreline of the Black Sea. At point 4, the Court ruled that the boundary turns almost due south to follow the equidistance line between Romania’s coastline and the opposite coastline of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. The ICJ did not identify an endpoint to the boundary, pending the delimitation of other maritime boundaries with neighbouring states (Bulgaria and Turkey).
The ICJ utilised a methodology that has become standard practice in recent maritime boundary cases. First, the Court drew a provisional equidistance line based on the identified relevant coastlines. It then took into account any relevant circumstances that would justify a departure from the equidistance line. Beyond point 2, the ICJ believed there were no relevant circumstances that required such a departure. The short section between points 1 and 2 delimited along the 12 nm arc from Serpent’s Island was chosen by the ICJ pursuant with other agreements reached between Romania and Ukraine. Without specifying the island’s legal status, the ICJ did state explicitly that in this case its conclusion was that Serpent’s Island could only generate a 12 nm territorial sea and should not be included as part of the relevant coastlines. The all-purpose boundary now divides the territorial seas, continental shelves and exclusive economic zones claimed by the two states.
Additional information: Judgment in the Case Concerning Maritime Delimitation in the Black Sea (Romania v. Ukraine), 3 February 2009, ICJ General List No 132; ICJ Press Release No. 2009/9.