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Law of the Sea

Obligations of States under Articles 74(3) and 83(3) of UNCLOS in respect of Undelimited Maritime Areas

Project Director

Jill Barrett, Arthur Watts Senior Research Fellow in Public International Law, BIICL

About the project

BIICL has completed a research project on the obligations of States in undelimited maritime areas, which was undertaken as part of the work of the Arthur Watts Fellowship Programme on public international law.

The results of the research have been published in the Report on the Obligations of States under Articles 74(3) and 83(3) of UNCLOS in respect of Undelimited Maritime Areas, BIICL 2016, ISBN 978-1-905221-68-4. An online copy of the report is available here.

The research report was discussed at a public conference at BIICL on 22 July 2016. A summary report of the conference proceedings is available here.

More than half of the world's maritime boundaries are not the subject of a delimitation agreement. Worldwide, many of these boundaries are hotly disputed, leading to tensions and generating uncertainty for States and non-State actors with a stake in maritime resources. The 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) regulates the delimitation of maritime boundaries, and provides a framework for managing the overlapping claims of States with adjacent or opposite coastlines, and for accommodating the rights and interests of third-party States.

This project investigated the requirements of Articles 74 and 83 of UNCLOS concerning maritime delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf, with particular focus on States' obligations in respect of undelimited maritime areas to which no provisional arrangements apply. Accordingly, its central theme is the content and application of the duty in Articles 74(3) and 83(3) UNCLOS to refrain from activities that could jeopardise or hamper the reaching of a final agreement on delimitation. The research team identified and analysed the historical and contemporary practice of States to determine the content and consequences of this obligation of self-restraint. Key questions considered include the obligation's temporal and geographic scope, and the categories of activities that are prohibited and permitted within undelimited areas.

As well as contributing to States' understanding of their rights and duties in undelimited maritime areas, the project's findings may have important practical consequences for States and non-state actors in areas as diverse as scientific research, environmental protection, fisheries management, and the exploitation of offshore mineral resources.

The research team consulted widely with leading academics, legal practitioners and diplomats with knowledge and experience in maritime delimitation, and has drawn on expertise from other sectors.

Research Team

Jill Barrett, Arthur Watts Senior Research Fellow in Public International Law, BIICL

Naomi Burke, Arthur Watts Research Fellow in Law of the Sea, BIICL

Callum Musto, Research Consultant in Law of the Sea, BIICL

David H. Anderson, Former Judge, International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea

Robin Churchill, Professor of Public International Law, University of Dundee

Kentaro Nishimoto, Associate Professor, School of Law, Tohoku University

Makoto Seta, Associate Professor of International Law, Yokohama City University

Research Assistants

Alfredo Crosato Neumann, Public International Law Research Assistant, BIICL

Alexandra Mazgareanu, Public International Law Research Assistant and Consultant, BIICL

Paata Simsive, Public International Law Research Assistant, BIICL

Suzu Tokue, Public International Law Research Assistant, BIICL


This research project was made possible through the kind financial support of the Government of Japan.

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Law of the Sea - UNCLOS as a living treaty

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