Maritime Boundaries and Limits & Transboundary Cooperation

Leader: Professor Alex Oude Elferink, UiT/NILOS.  
Certainty about the extent of maritime zones is a necessary prerequisite for ensuring a stable and effective oceans regime. The absence of such certainty in many areas of the world has led to disputes between states over the access to resources or the competence to regulate activities. These disputes may prevent the sustainable use of marine resources, result in an absence of cooperation between coastal states in a region, which may be detrimental to the marine environment, and they may at times even lead to open conflict.

To address questions in relation to the legal regime of the definition of maritime zones and the delimitation of maritime boundaries between states, Work Package II will address a number of specific research tasks. 

Task 1: Baselines and outer limits and climate change

Sea-level rise may follow from climate change and affect the baselines set in accordance with the law of the sea. This also will impact most other maritime limits and certain island states may even disappear completely. What would be the most appropriate response to these issues: reliance on the existing law on baselines and maritime zones or develop the law in the light of changing circumstances? The law on straight baselines continues to be characterized between divergent practice of states. Research under task 1 will at least initially be carried out by participation in the committees of the International Law Association that have been set up to deal with these questions.

Task 2: The CLCS and the outer limits of the continental shelf

The CLCS has been in operation since 1997. The practice of the Commission indicates that it is grappling with how to deal with the impact of UNCLOS Article 76 on land and maritime disputes and the interaction of Article 76 with other parts of the Convention and international law generally. Another issue that has become apparent is how the functions of the Commission relate to the right of States parties to interpret and apply the Convention. These issues and other issues that come up in the implementation of article 76 will be the focus of the work under task 2. 

Task 3: The development of the case law in relation to the delimitation of maritime boundaries between neighbouring States

Under this task two related issues will be considered. Firstly, the case law of the ICJ and other courts and tribunals over the past couple of decades has been far from consistent. It is intended to identify these inconsistencies and the implications this may have for the international law of maritime delimitation. Secondly, the delimitation of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. The 2012 Judgment of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in the case between Bangladesh and Myanmar is the first time that the delimitation of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles has been addressed in detail. The judgment is problematic on a number of grounds. It is intended to determine the impact of the judgment on the law in this field and keep track of other developments in relation to the applicable law. 

Task 4: Delimitation of maritime and boundaries transboundary cooperation

This task will deal with two related issues. Firstly, cooperation in the absence of agreement on the delimitation of  maritime zones between neighboring states. There is relatively limited analysis of the concrete practice of states in this respect and the specific implications of these general obligations. Secondly, transboundary cooperation, which can be concerned with many different activities in the marine environment. The research under this task is intended to focus first of all on the specific issues of transboundary cooperation in relation to hydrocarbon resources and the preservation and protection of the marine environment. 

Task 5: The implementation of article 82 of the UNCLOS

Article 82 of the UNCLOS requires states to make payments or contributions with respect of the exploitation of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. The International Seabed Authority (ISA), one of the institutions set up by UNCLOS, also has a role to play in this respect. The delineation of the respective roles of these actors in implementing article 82 requires further consideration. For Norway this topic is of interest because it will have to implement article 82 itself in relation to the mineral resources on its continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. Norway also has an interest in this issue because a failure to implement article 82 would weaken the UNCLOS regime generally. This task will seek to contribute to determining pathways to the successful implementation of article 82.

More information on WP II: Maritime Boundaries and Limits & Transboundary Cooperation.


Participating researchers

Professor Alex Oude Elferink

PostDoc Fellow Signe V. Busch

Research Fellow Natalia Ermolina