Year

2019

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Law

Abstract

The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea provides coastal States with rights to a minimum legal continental shelf of 200 nautical miles from their baselines – regardless of the physical condition of the seabed – which overlaps with the entitlement to the 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone. Beyond this limit, coastal States may have jurisdiction to the outer limit of the continental margin, provided the natural prolongation of their land territories extend beyond 200 nautical miles. The Convention does not prioritise between these two limits, creating the potential for overlapping entitlements between coastal States. Indeed, this creates a present and future point of contention, as continental shelf areas seawards of 200 nautical miles represent significant potential sources of income through the exploitation of seabed resources. Moreover, as an increasing number of coastal States lay claim to a continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles, the issue of overlapping entitlements with the Exclusive Economic Zone regime is bound to arise more frequently. This thesis investigates whether a coastal State’s entitlement to a continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles may overlap with another State’s Exclusive Economic Zone entitlement. To this end, a documentary research process of scholarly literature has been undertaken, as well as an investigation of relevant national legislation and international documentation. Relevant decisions of international courts and tribunals have also been extensively analysed, along with the submissions of coastal States to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. Currently, there is a consistent and geographically widespread practice of coastal States refraining from claiming a continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles into another State’s Exclusive Economic Zone. It should be noted, however, that this general practice has not yet crystallised into a rule of customary international law. Even so, such practice does demonstrate how States are dealing with this situation, and could thus indicate an emerging rule of customary international law.

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Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.