Oil and Gas Development in Disputed Waters under UNCLOS

Constantinos Yiallourides


Maritime delimitation is crucial in determining which coastal States may exercise control and jurisdiction over certain hydrocarbon deposits. Although international law has recently become more precise on the matter, boundary disputes are frequently resolved only after several or even many years. Even while coastal States are in a deadlock over delimitation issues, the need to explore and exploit the disputed areas’ resources remains imperative for reasons of energy security, social welfare and economic development. Thus, the question arises as to the rights and obligations of coastal States with respect to the development of natural resources in areas subject to overlapping claims.

Against this background, the paper examines the relevant provisions of the 1982 UnitedNations Convention on the Law of the Sea, international jurisprudence and Statepractice. Thecentral argument advanced is that in the absence of an agreed boundary or a provisionalcooperative agreement, none of the States concerned operates legitimately in unilaterallyundertaking petroleum operations in the disputed area, includingseismic surveys, should theconduct of such operations prove to aggravate the dispute. Finally, this paper considers thepractical implications of the aforementioned legal position on the development of hydrocarbonresources in areas subject to overlapping maritime claims.

NB: full text available here: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1493219/


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