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Friday, 04 September 2020 18:11

Rights of Arctic States on the territory of the Arctic region. Boundaries and delimitation of the continental shelf.

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The need for international legal regulation of the continental shelf regime is a natural consequence of the achievements of science and scientific and technological progress. Advances in technology have allowed us to begin effective exploitation of the subsurface resources and riches of the continental shelf. However, today the issue of the rights of Arctic States in the Arctic region, the borders and delimitation of the continental shelf is still acute.

Before proceeding to the description of various ways to distinguish the rights of Arctic States, the analysis of criteria for the boundaries of the continental shelf, it is necessary to distinguish the concepts.
The continental shelf is a section of the seabed and subsoil outside the territorial sea of a coastal state with a mixed international legal regime.This is a familiar geographical concept, but it should be noted that the legal concept of the continental shelf is broader than its geographical concept.
It includes, in addition to the shelf itself, coastal areas of the sea floor where there is no continental shelf in the geological sense, as well as areas of the sea floor outside the continental shelf.
So, according to international legal experts, there are two ways to distinguish the rights of Arctic States to the bottom of the Arctic ocean:
1) sectoral method (each Arctic state owns a sector of the Arctic ocean in the form of a sector whose peaks are the North pole, the Western and Eastern borders of the coast of the state).
2) the conventional method (application of the General rules for the delimitation of rights to Maritime areas established by the Convention on the law of the sea of 10.12.1982, which has been signed by 119 countries of the world (now it has been ratified by 148 States).
Russia ratified the Convention in 1997. According to article 76, paragraph 1 of the 1958 Convention, the internal border of the legal continental shelf (legally, the continental shelf does not include the seabed of the territorial sea) corresponds to the Maritime border of the territorial sea. Criteria for setting an external border:

  • depth (200 m);
  • technical availability (the so-called operability criterion).

The 1982 Convention uses a different approach to define the outer limit of the continental shelf:

  • distance of 200 nautical miles from baselines (distance criterion);
  • external border of the underwater margin of the continent (geographical criterion).

On each section of their continental shelf, coastal States may use any of the methods set forth in article 76, paragraph 4, of the 1982 Convention, to the maximum benefit of their own interests
Any state may claim the seabed and its subsoil (part VI of the Convention) even beyond 200 miles if it is proved that the shelf extends beyond that distance from its shores.
In addition to the definition of external borders, the question of the delimitation of the continental shelf between States with opposite or adjacent coasts may arise.

  • Delimitation of the continental shelf-in accordance with the UN Convention on the law of the sea of 1982 and the Convention on the continental shelf of 1958 – determination by States with opposite or adjacent coasts of the line delineating the continental shelf between them.

According to article 76, paragraph 10 of the 1982 Convention, the establishment of external borders should not affect the delimitation of the continental shelf between such States.
article 83, paragraph 1 provides that such delimitation must be carried out by entering into an agreement between all interested parties in accordance with the principles of fairness and taking into account all relevant circumstances.
Currently, the International court of Justice and international arbitrations have already ruled on a number of such cases and developed certain criteria, principles and rules for the delimitation of Maritime borders.

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