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IBRU: Centre for Borders Research

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More continental shelf claims submitted to the CLCS

(27 April 2009)

More submissions have been forwarded to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) as the 13 May 2009 deadline for many coastal states draws near. Recently, the Cook Islands, Fiji and Argentina have all made submissions for extended continental shelf claims.

The Cook Islands claim extended continental shelf rights over an area of the Mahiniki plateau situated at the northern extreme of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Most of the points defining the area were established using the the two cut-off measurements: 2500 metre isobath plus 100 nautical miles and 350 nautical miles from the baseline. The area is also limited by the 200 nm EEZ limits of Tokelau, Kiribati and the USA's Jarvis island. The Cook Islands recognised that its submission would not prejudice any outstanding maritime delimitations.

Fiji made a partial submission to the CLCS covering only a portion of extended continental shelf along the Lau Ridge in the northern part of the South Fiji Basin on 20 April 2009. The vast majority of points defining the claim were established using the foot-of-the-slope plus 60 nautical miles formulae. Neither New Zealand nor Tonga objected to Fiji's partial submission and all sides confirmed that it would not prejudice future delimitation agremeents. As a partial submission, Fiji reserves the right to make additional submissions to the CLCS.

Argentina made an expansive full submission to the CLCS on 22 April 2009. This included claims to continental shelf areas off mainland Argentina, the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands, South Georgia Island, the South Sandwich Islands as well as areas in the Weddell Sea off Argentina's claimed territory in Antarctica. The large extended continental shelf claimed area was defined by the various criteria specified in Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Argentina's submission notes that a dispute exists with the United Kingdom over the Falkland (Malvinas), South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, however Argentina did not qualify its claims off Antarctic territory. Previous submissions that included continental shelf areas off claimed territories in Antarctica have excluded these areas from consideration until the issue of sovereignty in Antarctica is resolved. No areain Argentina's submission is excluded from being considered by the CLCS, including continental shelf areas off the disputed islands and their claimed territories in Antarctica. Under Annex I of its rules of procedure, the CLCS cannot rule on a submission relating to a land or maritime dispute without the consent of all parties to the dispute. Since Argentina's submission did not indicate the consent of the United Kingdom, the CLCS is unlikely to render a judgement on Argentina's submission until consent is given or the dispute over the islands is resolved. The United Kingdom has not yet made a submission for extended continental shelf off the islands.

Preliminary information regarding extended continental shelf claims have also been submitted to the CLCS recently by Benin, Somalia, Oman and Fiji as well as a combined submissions by Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu and Fiji and the Solomon Islands. This information is not a formal submission to the CLCS but makes the CLCS aware that the respective states are in the process of producing a submission. Having given notice of progress, these states are then not required to make partial or full submissions before the CLCS deadline. In its preliminary information, Somalia included an agreement reached with neighbouring Kenya noting that neither state would object to extended continental shelf submissions made by the other, even including disputed areas. The agreement specifies that submissions by either state would not prejudice their respective maritime boundary claims or future delimitation agreements.

For more information including executive summaries of all submissions, see the UN Division of Ocean Affairs website.