For information only - not an official document.
Background Release   Press Release No: UNIS/ENV/86
Release Date: 28 August 2000
Commission on Limits of Continental Shelf to Meet
At Headquarters, 28 August - 1 September

Eighth Session of Commission to Take Place in New York

NEW YORK, 25 August (UN Headquarters) -- The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf –  one of three institutions created by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea –  will hold its eighth session on Monday, 31 August at Headquarters.  The other two institutions created by the Convention are the International Seabed Authority, with headquarters in Kingston, Jamaica, and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, based in Hamburg, Germany. 

Due to the nature of its mandate, the proceedings of the Commission normally take place in closed session.  However, during its seventh session, the Commission held an open meeting on 1 May 2000 to familiarize States “with the necessity to implement the provisions of article 76 and annex II to the Convention”, according to General Assembly resolution A/RES/54/31.  The open meeting was also intended to explain to policy makers and legal advisers benefits coastal States may derive from implementing the provisions of the article.  Similarly, the meeting also aimed at familiarizing experts in marine science and individuals from academia with how the Commission considers that its scientific and technical guidelines should be applied in practice in formulating a submission to the Commission to establish the outer limits of a coastal State’s continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.   Participants at the open meeting were from 50 countries.  Twenty individuals also attended from intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academic institutions and private firms involved in matters related to the establishment of an extended continental shelf.

According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the continental shelf of a coastal State comprises the submerged prolongation of its land territory – the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas that extend beyond its territorial sea to the outer edge of the continental margin, or to a distance of 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.

The continental margin consists of the seabed and subsoil of the shelf, the slope and the rise. It does not include the deep ocean floor with its oceanic ridges or the subsoil. 

Article 76 provides the rules by which coastal States may establish the outer limits of their continental shelves beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.  More than 30 States are said to meet the legal and geographic requirements to take advantage of those provisions. 

Coastal States intending to establish those outer limits beyond 200 nautical miles are required by article 76 to submit the relevant data and information to the Commission.  The task of the Commission is to examine the submission and make recommendations upon which a coastal State may establish those limits.  The Commission’s recommendations and actions are without prejudice to the delimitation of boundaries between States with opposite or adjacent coasts.  The limits of the shelf established by the coastal State on the basis of the Commission’s recommendations shall be final and binding. 

In accordance with article 4 of annex II to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the particulars of such limits should be submitted to the Commission within 10 years of the entry into force of the Convention for that State. 

Almost three years have passed since the first session of the Commission took place in June 1997. Since then, the Commission has been engaged in an organizational process, including the preparation of its basic documents.  That phase was completed in September of last year. The most important document produced by the Commission to date for the benefit of coastal States in preparing their submissions for the establishment of their continental shelf is the Scientific and Technical Guidelines (CLCS/11 and Add.1). 

The Scientific and Technical Guidelines are of a highly scientific nature.  They deal with geodetic and other methodologies stipulated in article 76 for the establishment of the outer limit of the continental shelf, using such criteria as determination of the foot of the slope of the continental margin, sediment thickness and structure of submarine ridges and other underwater elevations. 

At its seventh session in May, the Commission concentrated on the issues regarding the training necessary to develop the knowledge and skills for preparation of the submissions in respect of the outer limits of the continental shelf required by the Convention.  A flowchart was adopted which provided a simplified outline of the procedures described in relevant parts of the Guidelines themselves. The Commission continued discussion of a draft outline for a training course of about five days’ duration for those who would take part in the preparation of the submission of a coastal State.

The Commission also reviewed its Rules of Procedure (CLCS/3/Rev. 2) concerning confidentiality, and amended rule 4 of annex II to elaborate on the provisions for considering information contained in the submissions by coastal States (CLCS/21, para. 19).

The Tenth Meeting of States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, at the request of the Commission, decided to recommend to the General Assembly to establish a voluntary trust fund for the purpose of meeting the costs of participation of the members of the Commission from developing countries in the meetings of the Commission.  The Meeting of States Parties also recommended that the General Assembly consider the establishment of a voluntary trust fund to provide assistance to States Parties to meet their obligations under article 76 of the Convention.  It recommended as well that training to countries for preparing submissions to the Commission, in particular the least developed States among them, as well as small island developing States, should be considered during the upcoming session of the General Assembly.

During its eighth session, the Commission’s main focus will be to continue developing the five-day training module which it provisionally adopted at its previous session, as well as other matters related to training for preparation of submissions by coastal States.  It will also look further into discussing issues related to confidentiality, including procedures to be followed by the Commission in case of an allegation of breach of confidentiality.  The Commission will also consider issues regarding practical preparations for the receipt and consideration of submissions.

Members of Commission 

The 21 members of the Commission were elected for a term of five years on 13 March 1997, and began their term of office on the date of the first meeting of the Commission – 16 June 1997. 

The members who serve in their personal capacity are:  Aleandre Tagore Medeiros de Albuquerque, Osvaldo Pedro Astiz, Lawrence Folajimi Awosika, Ali Ibrahim Beltagy, Samuel Sona Betah, Harald Brekke, Galo Carrera Hurtado, Peter F. Croker, Noel Newton St. Claver Francis, Kazuchika Hamuro, Karl H.F.Hinz, A. Bakar Jaafar, Mladen Juracic, Yuri Borisovitch Kazmin, Iain C. Lamont, Chisengu Leo Mdala, Wenzheng Lu, Yong Ahn Park, Daniel Rio, Krishna-Swami Ramachandran Srinivasan and Andre Chan Chim Yuk.  Mr. Kazmin is Chairman of the Commission.

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