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Article 76 of the LOSC on the Definition of the Continental Shelf: Questions concerning its Interpretation from a Legal Perspective

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image of The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law

The establishment of the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles under Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOSC) is a complex process, which requires a coastal state to dedicate significant resources. To understand the reasons for the inclusion of this complex provision in the LOSC, this article first looks at the origins of Article 76. Subsequently, a number of provisions of Article 76 are considered to illustrate the questions which exist in connection with its application and interpretation. It is concluded that Article 76 fulfills the mandate that had been given to the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea in respect of the definition of the limits of national jurisdiction, notwithstanding the complexity of the issue and the interests involved. Before the Third Conference started there was no certainty about the extent of the continental shelf. Article 76 provides a procedure to arrive at precisely defined outer limits. Once Article 76 will have been implemented by all the present states parties to the Convention, most of the outer limits of the continental shelf vis-à-vis the Area will be defined in precise terms.


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