Ireland can extend territorial waters


Ireland has become one of the first countries to be permitted to extend the boundaries of its territorial waters.

The State has received final and binding recommendations from the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf that it could increase its continental shelf off the south-west coast beyond the standard 200 nautical mile limit.

The move means the seabed, which is believed to be rich in minerals and hydrocarbons, can now be explored.

 The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern said: "I am very proud that Ireland has become one of the first countries in the world to successfully complete the process leading to international recognition of its right to extend its continental shelf."

"This is especially fitting given the leading role that Ireland played in the 10 years of negotiation that lead to the Law of the Sea Convention, in particular in relation to the legal regime governing the rights of coastal states on the continental shelf."

Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982, all coastal states are permitted to claim a shelf up to 200 miles in breadth, subject to the exercise of the same rights by their neighbours. States whose continental shelves naturally extend beyond this distance must establish their limits to the satisfaction of the UN commission on the basis of scientific data.

A coastal state exercises over its continental shelf the sovereign right to exploit its natural resources, including oil and gas deposits as well as other minerals and biological resources, located on or under the seabed.

The recommendations allow Ireland to exercise these rights exclusively in the claimed area of extended seabed, which amounts to an additional 39,000km of Irish shelf., representing approximately half the size of its land territory.

This first Irish submission to the UN commission was a partial submission which concerns the undisputed portion of Ireland's outer continental shelf. Other areas in which Ireland's claims overlap with those of other states are the subject of separate exercises.