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Continental Shelf Settlement for Norway

The Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf (New York) has today decided that Norway’s claim on the limits of its continental shelf in the Northern Areas is justified, albeit with some exceptions. As a result, limits of the Norwegian continental shelf are clarified and Norway now has around 235 000 km2, and major part lies in the North. However, the Commission has changed the limit proposed by Norway in relation to the border between the mainland and Jan Mayen by moving it eastward, thus reducing Norwegian continental shelf by 13 000 km2. Nevertheless, in the high North Norway got even more than it asked for.

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Legal regime of the continental shelf is laid down in Part VI of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Annex II of the UNCLOS regulates the status of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. The purpose of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (the Commission or CLCS) is to facilitate the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (the Convention) in respect of the establishment of the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles (M) from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured. Under the Convention, the coastal State shall establish the outer limits of its continental shelf where it extends beyond 200 M on the basis of the recommendation of the Commission. The Commission shall make recommendations to coastal States on matters related to the establishment of those limits; its recommendations and actions shall not prejudice matters relating to the delimitation of boundaries between States with opposite or adjacent coasts.

According to Article 4 of Annex II, where a coastal State intends to establish, in accordance with article 76, the outer limits of its continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles, it shall submit particulars of such limits to the Commission along with supporting scientific and technical data as soon as possible but in any case within 10 years of the entry into force of this Convention for that State. The coastal State shall at the same time give the names of any Commission members who have provided it with scientific and technical advice.

Norway has submitted its claim to the Commission in November 2006. Norway faces several law of the sea issues relating to fisheries and maritime border delimitation disputes. In particular, maritime border dispute with Russia continues, although Russia and Norway managed to agree on Varanger fjord border in 2008. The legal regime of Svalbard established by Svalbard Treaty of 1920 also is a continuous source of disagreement between Norway and Russia.

Decision of the Commission does not have implications on the maritime delimitation dispute between Norway and Russia.

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