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IBRU: Centre for Borders Research

Maritime jurisdiction and boundaries in the Arctic region

Arctic map


In August 2007 Russian scientists sent a submarine to the Arctic Ocean seabed at 90° North to gather data in support of Russia's claim that the North Pole is part of the Russian continental shelf. The expedition provoked a hostile reaction from other Arctic littoral states and prompted media speculation that Russia's action might trigger a "new Cold War" over the resources of the Arctic.

While there are a number of disagreements over maritime jurisdiction in the Arctic region - and potential for more as states define the areas in which they have exclusive rights over the resources of the continental shelf more than 200 nautical miles from their coastal baselines - so far all of the Arctic states have followed the rules and procedures for establishing seabed jurisdiction set out in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Russia, Norway and most recently (in December 2014) Denmark have made submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS); Norway's submission was the subject of CLCS recommendations in 2009 and Russia is expected to make a revised submission in early 2015. Canada and the USA continue to gather data in preparation for future submissions to the CLCS, although the USA will probably need to ratify UNCLOS before it can make a submission. 

In response to numerous enquiries relating to maritime jurisdiction in the Arctic, IBRU has prepared a map and a set of briefing notes on the current state of play in the region. The map identifies known claims and agreed boundaries, plus potential areas that might be claimed in the future. Comments and questions concerning the map should be sent to ibru@durham.ac.uk - but please read the briefing notes carefully first.

PDF icon Download Arctic maritime jurisdiction map and briefing notes