Joint submission by Ireland, France, Spain and the UK to the UN claiming extended continental shelf
EMBARGOED – 9.30pm, Friday 19 May 2006
Joint submission by Ireland, France, Spain and the UK to a UN Commission claiming extended continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from shore
This afternoon Ireland, France, Spain and the United Kingdom lodged a joint submission with the UN's Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf claiming an area of continental shelf about 80,000 km² in size (equivalent to the size of Ireland) in the area of the Celtic Sea and the Bay of Biscay that lies beyond 200 nautical miles from shore. The Commission is an expert body established under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and its Chair is Mr Peter Croker from Ireland's Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.
The four States have unresolved maritime boundaries in this area and a process of consultation among them began in October 2003. It was agreed to submit the joint submission before the 21st of May 2006 in order to have it included on the agenda of the 18th session of the Commission which will be held in New York from 21 August to 15 September 2006. This submission is the first ever joint submission presented to the Commission. Ireland has already made a submission to the Commission in relation to an area off south west coast) which is currently under active consideration in the Commission in New York.
NOTE FOR EDITORS:
In September 2005 new geological and geophysical data was also acquired specifically for this submission by a team of scientists from each of the four States during the 'Breogham' cruise using the Spanish research vessel Hespérides. The Irish team on the joint submission comprises of legal and technical experts from the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. A considerable amount of existing data for this joint submission has been assembled and merged from the individual holdings of each country.
Under the terms of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 a coastal State exercises over its continental shelf sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting its natural resources including oil and gas deposits as well as other minerals and biological resources in the seabed. It exercises these sovereign rights out to a distance of 200 nautical miles from its coast, or further if the shelf naturally extends beyond that limit. Where the submerged prolongation of its land territory extends beyond 200 nautical miles a State is required by the Convention to make a submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, which has been established by the Convention specifically for this purpose. Such a submission sets out the coordinates of the outer limits of the shelf claimed and is accompanied by technical and scientific data to support the claim. The limits established on the basis of the recommendations that the Commission makes following its consideration of the submission are final and binding.
The Commission cannot consider submissions in respect of areas of the continental shelf where more than one state claims sovereign rights without the consent of all the parties to the dispute. Therefore the four States have made a joint submission without regard to the delimitation of boundaries (carve up of the area) between them. Delimitation of this area between the four States concerned will be agreed between them on the basis of applicable principles of international law after the Commission has concluded its consideration of the joint submission and after the outer limits of the area concerned are established. For each of the four States concerned this joint submission represents a partial submission in respect of a portion only of the outer limits of the continental shelf appurtenant to them that lie beyond 200 nautical miles from their baselines.
19 May 2006