Today the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), or rather the Special Chamber of the ITLOS which was formed by order of 20 December 2000, further extended the time-limits for the Case between Chile and the European Community concerning the Conservation and Sustainable Exploitation of Swordfish Stocks in the South-Eastern Pacific Ocean for one year until 1 January 2009 (the press release can be found here, the relevant order here). The time-limits for making preliminary objections have thus been extended for the fourth time, following the orders of 15 March 2001, 16 December 2003 and 29 December 2005. This procedure, although it may seem somewhat strange at first glance, follows Art. 59 (2) Rules of the Tribunal, according to which:
The Tribunal may at the request of a party extend any time-limit or decide that any step taken after the expiration of the time-limit fixed therefor shall be considered as valid. It may not do so, however, unless it is satisfied that there is adequate justification for the request.
Therefore, although of course “[t]he proceedings before the Tribunal shall be conducted without unnecessary delay or expense” (pursuant to Art. 49 Rules of the Tribunal) the ITLOS did rely on Art. 27 Statute of the ITLOS, according to which the “Tribunal shall make orders for the conduct of the case, decide the form and time in which each party must conclude its arguments”. In this case it seems as if the EC was the driving force behind the request for an extended time-limit. It remains unclear, however, what the actual reasons for the requested extension were.