Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Commission Acts on Norway's Arctic Ocean Extended Continental Shelf Submission, Accepts Somalia's Preliminary Information

On April 15, 2009, Norway announced the favorable review of its submission regarding the Arctic Ocean extended continental shelf by the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS).  The CLCS has issued its final recommendations on the Norwegian submission under Article 76 of the Law of the Sea Convention, but these are not yet available on the CLCS website list of recommendations.  The CLCS recommendations cover Norway's submission with respect to the Barents Sea, the Arctic Ocean and the Norwegian Sea.

Russia was the first arctic state to make a submission to the CLCS regarding the [Central] Arctic Ocean, in 1997. However, in 2002 the CLCS "recommended that the Russian Federation make a revised submission in respect of its extended continental shelf in that area based on the findings contained in the recommendations." A/57/57/Add.1, Oceans and Law of the Sea, Report of the Secretary General, 2002, para. 41.

Norway also played a key role in supporting Somalia's April 8, 2009, submission of Preliminary Information indicative of the Outer Limits of its Continental Shelf to the CLCS. With Norway's technical assistance, Somalia became one of the first African countries to take advantage of the "preliminary information" filing option, adopted in June 2008, to help numerous developing countries meet their May 2009 filing deadline with the Commission.  As noted in the Norwegian Goverment's press release, the submission was prepared in consultation with the Secretary General's Special Representative for Somalia acting on behalf of the Transitional Federal Government of the Somali Republic and with "the assistance of international law experts in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, experts in the geosciences in the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate and experts from the UNEP Shelf Programme, represented by GRID-Arendal."

Somalia's two decades of civil war have engendered great suffering for its population and now allows piracy to thrive off its shores.  It has continental Africa's longest coastline, at 3,025 kilometres (1,879.64 miles).

Icebreaking into the Arctic

The USCGC HEALY embarked Barrow, Alaska, in August 2008 to map the US extended continental shelf, or ECS, in the Arctic Ocean (HLY 0805). Healy sailed again from 7 August to 16 September, 2009 (HLY 0905) to continue ECS mapping, joining with the Canadian icebreaker, the Louis S. St.-Laurent. The two vessels mapped together again in 2010 (see HLY1002) and 2011 (HLY1102).

As the only law professor on the science crew, I was along on HLY 0805 and 0905 to better understand
the science behind the legal process that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea establishes for states making ECS submissions. As to why the US is mapping now, even though it has not yet acceded to the Convention, read on both here, and in the Law of the Sea notes below.

Thanks to
Vermont Law School and especially to Larry Mayer, Director of the University of New Hampshire's Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, for making my part in the trip possible.
Thanks, as well, to Adriane Colburn, for opening new windows on and for the deep.