UN Reviews Brazil’s Request to Extend Its Territory

The fourteenth session of the UN’s Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and its Subcommission established for that purpose, from 30 August to 17 September, examined the scientific data and other material included in the submission by Brazil regarding the outer limits of its continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. 

The executive summary of the submission, including the coordinates of the outer limits of the continental shelf as indicated by Brazil in its submission, and the charts and other illustrative material, were circulated to all members of the Commission. 


This information was posted on the Web site of the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS) at http://www.un.org/Depts/los/clcs_new/commission_submissions.htm


All Member States of the United Nations, including all States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Convention), were notified of this submission and its posting on the DOALOS Web site.


This is the second submission by a coastal State to the Commission to establish the outer limits of an extended continental shelf pursuant to article 76, paragraph 8, of the Convention. 


The submission contains data and information on the outer limits of the continental shelf of Brazil beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured (often referred to as an extended continental shelf), and was forwarded to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 16 May 2004 through the Brazilian Mission. 


The first submission was that of the Russian Federation in December 2001.


In connection with the submission, the United States addressed a communication to the Commission through the Secretariat, stating its position on various aspects of the submission. 


The letter was circulated to all Member States of the United Nations and posted, as well, on the DOALOS Web site.


Nicholas Michel, who had recently taken up his assignment as Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and the Legal Counsel, addressed the fourteenth session. 


In his statement, he noted, inter alia,that the Commission was one of the vital elements in the establishment of the last of the extensive limits of national jurisdiction, and it brought much-needed precision to its important task of determining whether a coastal State, in delineating the outer limits of its continental shelf where it extends beyond 200 nautical miles, has correctly applied the complex formulae contained in article 76 of the Convention.


He noted that some members of the Commission were assisting the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea in drafting a Training Manual for States to help them prepare their submissions to the Commission, a document which is essential for assistance to developing countries in those preparations. 


The objective on the part of the Secretariat was to encourage States to maximize the benefits from this Training Manual and to take fuller advantage of what is learned in other training courses and workshops available for this purpose. 


He also noted that at the request of Member States, the Secretariat proposed to begin organizing regional workshops starting in January of next year, with the continued provision of expertise and support given by the members of the Commission in imparting the necessary training to Member States.


The Legal Counsel remarked on the heavy schedule of work before the Commission, with the submission of Brazil before it at the current session, the submission of Australia due to arrive in November of this year, and at least seven submissions tentatively scheduled before the term of this Commission would be over in 2007.


He expressed his confidence that the Commission’s examination of the submissions and their carefully considered recommendations based on impartial scientific principles would stand the test of close global scrutiny.


Vice-Admiral Lúcio de Sá Fernandez presented the Brazilian submission to the plenary of the Commission in its first week.  At the completion of that presentation, the Commission elected a Subcommission, in accordance with its rules of procedure, to report to the full Commission with its recommendations for action to be taken by the Commission regarding recommendation to the submitting State. 


The members appointed to the Subcommission were Osvaldo Pedro Astiz, Larry Folajimi Awosika, Galo Carrera Hurtado, Mladen Juracic, Wenzheng Lu, Yong-AhnPark, and Philip Alexander Symonds.  The Subcommission elected Mr. Carrera as its Chairman, and Messrs. Juracic and Symonds as its Vice-Chairmen.


The Subcommission completed the first stage of its examination of the submission on 17 September 2004.  It will continue its work intersessionally, and will reconvene during the fifteenth session of the Commission, to take place from 4 to 22 April 2005.


The state-of-the-art technical facilities and technical assistance for the examination of scientific material conducted by the Subcommission were provided by the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea.


The members of the Subcommission also visited the well-known Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, to review recently collected scientific data pertinent to the submission.


The determination of the outer limit of the continental shelf of States is necessary to separate those areas that fall under national jurisdiction from those areas of the seabed which were proclaimed by the Convention to be the common heritage of mankind. 


The resources of the deep seabed beyond the limits of national jurisdiction are to be administered jointly by all States through the International Seabed Authority, a body also established by the Convention.


The current membership of the Commission was elected in May 2002 at the Twelfth Meeting of States Parties.  As the term of the members of the Commission is five years, election of a new Commission is scheduled to be held at the seventeenth Meeting of States Parties, which will take place in 2007.


An election was held for the officers of the Commission during this session.  They will serve until the completion of the term of the Commission in 2007. 


Peter F. Croker was re-elected Chairman.  Noel Newton St. Claver Francis, Mladen Juracic, Yong-AhnPark, and Yao Ubuènalè Woeledji were elected as Vice-Chairmen.  Philip Alexander Symonds and Abu Bakar Jaafar were re-elected, the former Chairman of the Scientific and Technical Advice Committee and the latter Chairman of the Committee on Confidentiality. 


All the officers were elected by acclamation.  Harald Brekke was elected Chairman of the Training Committee, and Indurlal Fagoonee Chairman of the Editorial Committee.

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