Monday, May 5, 2008

By Granting Australia's Claims to a Portion of Antartica, UN Continental Shelf Commission Acted Illegally Argues UNCLOS Expert


The Hon Martin Ferguson AM MP

April 21, 2008

Minister for Resources and Energy Martin Ferguson today welcomed findings from the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in New York confirming Australia’s jurisdiction over an additional 2.5 million square kilometres of seabed.

See map:

The Commission’s findings confirm the location of the outer limit of Australia’s continental shelf in nine distinct marine regions and Australia’s entitlement to large areas of shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.

The decision means Australia now has jurisdiction over an extra 2.5 million square kilometres of continental shelf, which is almost five times the size of France, seven times the size of Germany and almost 10 times the size of New Zealand. It gives Australia the rights to what exists on and under the seabed, including:

· Oil resources;
· Gas resources; and
· Biological resources, such micro-organisms, which could be used in medicines.

“This is a major boost to Australia’s offshore resource potential and also to our ability to preserve the marine environment on the seabed,” Minister for Resources and Energy Martin Ferguson said.

“It demonstrates that Australia’s effective engagement in law of the sea matters delivers results. In many respects Australia has also led the way for other countries looking to confirm their continental shelf boundaries through the Commission. The Government will move quickly to proclaim the outer limits of the Australian continental shelf into law on the basis of the recommendations of the Commission.”

“The recommendations are further proof of the substantial benefits Australia has derived from ratification of the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea by the previous Labor Government. It’s also a strong indication of the real and practical benefits of engaging constructively with the United Nations and its agencies.”

The Minister praised the contribution of Government officials from Geoscience Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Attorney-General’s Department in preparing Australia’s detailed submission to the Commission.

“This is the culmination of over fifteen years of cutting edge work by a range of Government agencies and I would like to record the Government’s recognition of their contribution to this important outcome,” said Mr Ferguson.

Media Contact: Tracey Winters (Canberra) 0439 991 730


There should be added in response to this announcement the comments of Dr. Peter M. Leitner, author of Reformign the Law of the Sea Treaty - Opportunities Missed, Precedents Set, and U.S. Sovereignty Threatened, (Univ Press of America (c) 1996).

Dr. Leitner essentially believes that if it is true that the UN Continental Shelf Commission recognized Australia's extended territorial claims as being adjacent to Australia's Antartica claims, the Commission, in effect, recognized the division of Antartica, and thereby acted arguably beyond its legal authority under the UNCLOS. Thus, its determination can be and should be voided as a violation of international law.

1. If you download the accompanying map it implies that the LOST gave Australia dominion of the Continental Shelf adjacent to their Antarctic claims. If this is true...[t]hat would be a UN sanctioned recognition of the division of Antarctica.

2. Harry Truman did not need any sanction from an international organization when he issued his 1948 proclaimation that the Cont Shelf out to a distance of 200 NM is US territory. Any US President today can issue a similar proclamation extending that limit as Australia says it is about to do.

3. We need to see the wording of the LOST decision to see what terms and conditions, caveats, etc., The LOST attached to its decision. I suspect we will find additional issues in the fine print.


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