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Maritime boundary disputes

Maritime boundaries according to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea
Nicholas Newman Eniday July 2017

Of the world’s 512 potential maritime boundaries, fewer than half have been agreed, creating uncertainty and room for disputes for the remainder. In addition, Maritime boundary disputes regularly occur over commercial, economic and security interests and are a common but underrated investment risk in the energy sector. Agreeing and fixing maritime boundaries involves the use of geology, oceanography, technology, money, law, history, politics and diplomacy…

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which came into force in 1994, and has been ratified by over 165 countries, gives States the right to claim natural resource rights to the water and ocean floor up to 200 nautical miles from their coastline, known as exclusive economic zones (EEZ). Such rights are potentially highly valuable and are particularly important for energy, mining, fishing and telecommunications industries. However, in some areas, for example, the South China Seas, the eastern Mediterranean and the Arctic Archipelago, multiple overlapping claims exist.

The eastern Mediterranean is a case in point where marine territorial disputes between Israel and Lebanon on the one hand, and Turkey with Cyprus and Greece on the other, are ongoing. Another, is the future of the Arctic Archipelago where Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway have all been trying to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic as the retreat of the Polar ice creates opportunities for exploration in a region believed to hold a quarter of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas valued at some $30 trillion. This feature looks at some of these disputes, how they are being resolved, the challenges faced and what the law says about such issues.

Arctic Archipelago

International rivalry over the Arctic, a region believed to hold up to a quarter of the world’s undisclosed oil and gas and mineral riches, underlies Russia’s revised bid for greater territorial rights. In this new bid, Russia claims a 1.2 million square kilometers of the Arctic Sea Shelf extending more than 350 nautical miles from the shore. Upgraded military installations and a recent visit by Vladimir Putin serve to reinforce the Russian presence and its national defense and environmental protection credentials. The size of the prize in oil, gas and minerals plus the geographical proximity of eight nations will require complex and lengthy negotiations. While these matters are being resolved, thinning ice of the polar cap offers new commercial opportunities for Russia’s Yamal LNG exports with a new class of ice-breaking LNG tankers to Asia in the summer months at least. Read more

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