Is There a Hierarchical Relationship between Natural Prolongation and Distance in the Continental Shelf Delimitation?

In: The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law
Author: Xuexia Liao1
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  • 1 PhD candidate, Graduate Institute of International and Development StudiesGenevaSwitzerland
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If a coastal State claims a continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles (nm) that intrudes into the 200-nm limit of another State, the problem arises as to whether there is a hierarchical relationship between natural prolongation and distance, the two criteria of entitlement to the continental shelf provided by Article 76 of the un Convention on the Law of the Sea. A positive answer would mean that the continental shelf beyond 200 nm cannot encroach upon the 200-nm limit, otherwise there would be an area of overlapping entitlements which calls for maritime delimitation. This article attempts to analyse this problem from the perspectives of Article 76, relevant judicial cases, State practice, and the relationship between the regimes of the continental shelf and the Exclusive Economic Zone. It is submitted that the law is not conclusive, though a majority of coastal States tend to adopt a self-constraint approach. In addition, this problem brings further challenges to the law of maritime delimitation.

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