International Law Studies


Article 76 UNCLOS provides a new definition of the legal continental shelf, which grants coastal States sovereign rights and jurisdiction extending to the outer edge of the continental margin. The broad-shelf States had to make two compromises to have that provision accepted, that is revenue-sharing for the benefit of the international community with respect to the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles, enshrined in Article 82 UNCLOS, and the delineation of the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond that distance “on the basis of” recommendations by the CLCS, in order that these limits may become “final and binding.” In the landmark Bangladesh v. Myanmar case, ITLOS emphasized that there is a clear distinction between the delimitation of the continental shelf between States with opposite or adjacent coasts under Article 83 UNCLOS and the delineation of its outer limits under Article 76. It decided to proceed with the delimitation of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles prior to recommendations having been made by the CLCS. Faced with an unforeseen heavy workload, the CLCS has so far only been able to adopt a limited number of recommendations on the outer limits of the continental shelf. The precise limits between national jurisdiction and the international seabed Area will, thus, remain largely undefined for a very long time. The implementation of Article 82 providing for revenue sharing in form of payments or contributions in kind to be made through the ISA will still require a substantial amount of work.