In recent years maritime joint development zones have emerged as an important means to overcome deadlock in relation to maritime jurisdictional claims. A key consideration in the negotiation and establishment of maritime joint development arrangements is the definition of the precise geographical area within which joint development is to proceed. This chapter reviews joint development practice with particular reference to the spatial definition of joint zones.
This experience can be broadly divided into joint zones that have been agreed in addition to a maritime boundary line and those that have been defined in the absence of a boundary line, which have proved a more popular alternative. With respect to the latter type of joint zone, many such joint areas are determined by the limits of competing maritime claims and thus involve the joint development of disputed waters.
The definition of joint zones in this manner is often a sensitive and challenging issue. This is the case because, without prejudice clauses notwithstanding, the use of unilateral maritime claims as the limits of a joint area to an extent validates such claims, giving them practical impact and thereby a degree of endorsement and legitimacy which they may not, in fact, warrant. This has led to reluctance on the part of some States to, in a sense, recognise and accept what are regarded as excessive claims through their use in the definition of the limits of a maritime joint development zone. This chapter explores past experience of how this delicate issue has been dealt with. Some observations drawn from this inventory and assessment of past practice are offered, together with some preliminary considerations on the applicability of these observations to overlapping claims in the South China Sea.