Australian practice in respect of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles
Australia's remote location and position on the vast Indo-Australian plate mean that possesses one of the largest continental shelf areas in the world. The criteria in Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea permit the claiming on continental shelf to 200 nautical miles from territorial sea baselines, and if certain criteria are met based on the configuration and content of the seabed, to distances beyond. During the negotiations at UNCLOS III, Australia was a strong proponent of this extended shelf regime, as it was likely to have large areas beyond 200 nautical miles. Article 76 provides for a number of requirements to be met for a coastal State to assert sovereign rights over areas of continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles, including a ten year deadline from becoming a party. This placed a disproportionate burden upon Australia, as it faced the same ten year time frame to lodge data with the Commission on the Limits on the Continental Shelf (CLCS) as other States with much smaller areas in issue. Australia also chose not to rely upon measures agreed between State parties to effectively extend this deadline, and to limit the requirements to be met within it. This paper looks at how Australian authorities approached the difficult task, while maintaining the standards required for data by the CLCS, and how the task was ultimately implemented. It also examines how the extended continental shelf arrangements interacted with the rest of Australiaand#039;s law of the sea practice and maritime boundaries with other States. For example, after the entry into force of the Convention, Australia negotiated two maritime boundaries with neighbouring States that each explicitly dealt with areas beyond 200 nautical miles. It concludes with consideration of what issues remain unresolved in respect of the Australian continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. The paper will conclude at how Australia's implementation has raised new issues with neighbouring States, including an unresolved dispute in the South Pacific Ocean.
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