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The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and its Disturbing Propensity to Legislate

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Created by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to apply the rules in Article 76 on the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from States’ territorial sea baselines, the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf has on several occasions introduced new requirements for States not supported by Article 76, or impermissibly qualifying the rights Article 76 accords them. This article focuses on several such instances, one to the coastal State’s advantage (though temporally rather than spatially), another neutral (though requiring unnecessary work of States), but the remainder all tending to reduce the area of continental shelves. The net effect has been to deprive States of areas of legal continental shelf to which a reasonable interpretation of Article 76 entitles them, and in one case even of their right to have their submissions examined on their merits, even though, paradoxically, the well-meaning intention behind at least some of the Commission’s pronouncements was to avoid other controversies.

Affiliations: 1: School of Law, University of Southampton United Kingdom, Email:


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