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The International Law of the SeaIndia and the UN Convention of 1982$
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Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780198060000

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198060000.001.0001

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The Continental Shelf

The Continental Shelf

(p.168) 6 The Continental Shelf
The International Law of the Sea

O.P. Sharma

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses the concept of the continental shelf which has global importance because of its mineral and other resources such as oil. This concept of rights over submerged lands beyond territorial waters was charged to oblivion until 1942 when an important treaty (between the UK and Venezuela) was concluded, dividing into two parts the submarine areas of the Gulf of Paria. Laws relating to national jurisdiction over seabed resources are critical to most coastal States. The problem of determining the outer limits of the legal continental shelf was set for discussions in the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in Geneva (with special reference to the Irish Formula and India’s acceptance of it) which are described in detail. The author then discusses the doctrine of equitable principles as being the fundamental norm of customary international law governing maritime boundary delimitation. The chapter concludes by dangers faced by a State’s continental shelf in that ‘enemy’ dormant mines and submarine listening posts etc. can be installed on them. Now, whether coastal States can legally object to foreign installations or the laying of mines is still being debated.

Keywords:   continental shelf, national jurisdiction, coastal States, Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, international law, mineral resources, maritime boundary, foreign installations, The Irish Formula, exclusive economic zone

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