Maritime Delimitation

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Nicaragua v Columbia: the curious question of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf

Continental shelf questions have a reputation for being arcane and technical, but an interesting point with implications for offshore resource disputes arose in last month’s ICJ judgement in Territorial and Maritime Dispute (Nicaragua v. Colombia). First, a certain amount of (potentially dull) technical background needs to be set out, which I’ll simplify as much as possible. Notably, Nicaragua is a party to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and Colombia is not. UNCLOS in Article 76(1) states a general principle: The continental shelf of a coastal State comprises the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas that extend beyond its territorial sea throughout the natural prolongation of its land territory to the outer edge of the continental margin, or to [an automatic] distance of 200 nautical miles from [its] baselines. This 200 nm or “the outer edge of the continental margin” general definition of the limits of the continental shelf was always likely to be found to be customary international law – and now the ICJ has determined that it is (para 118:…

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From the North Sea to the Bay of Bengal: Maritime Delimitation at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea

Last week, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea delivered its judgment in the Dispute concerning delimitation of the maritime boundary between Bangladesh and Myanmar in the Bay of Bengal (Bangladesh/Myanmar). Although Bangladesh and Myanmar started negotiations for the delimitation of their maritime boundaries since 1974, when Bangladesh became independent from Pakistan, the boundary…

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International Tribunal for the Law of Sea’s First Judgment on Maritime Delimitation

And in other news . . . the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) also had a first of its own this past Wednesday. ITLOS delivered judgment in its first maritime delimitation case – Dispute concerning delimitation of the maritime boundary between Bangladesh and Myanmar in the Bay of Bengal (Bangladesh/Myanmar) (see press release here and judgment…

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