Dividing the Arctic: Sovereign Rights on Extended Continental Shelves in The High North

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Antsygina, Ekaterina
Arctic , Maritime delimitation , Extended continental shelf , Three-step approach , Sector Theory
This thesis examines the delimitation of the continental shelves beyond 200 nautical miles (M) in the Arctic Ocean. It analyzes the regimes of the continental shelf and the Arctic, as well as the rules applicable to the delimitation of the continental shelves, to develop the delimitation scenario for the overlapping entitlements of Canada, Denmark, and Russia. Whereas the scope of the research was narrowed down to the Central Arctic Ocean, the outcomes have implications for the more general issue of the delimitation of the extended continental shelves and demonstrate that the existing delimitation methodology of international tribunals needs to be adjusted in cases that exclusively or primarily concern the ECSs. Article 83 of the UNCLOS, which regulates the delimitation of the continental shelves, does not provide for a binding method of delimitation. This means that the concerned Arctic States are free to choose any delimitation method they consider suitable. This thesis applies the three-step approach developed by international tribunals because it incorporates the most popular method of maritime delimitation, equidistance. However, the application of the methodology of international tribunals to the case of the Central Arctic Ocean revealed issues that are unique for the ECSs and demand the adjustment of the method for the identification of the relevant coasts and relevant area in delimitation. Differences between the continental shelves within and beyond 200 M make the application of the three-step approach challenging. The argument that this thesis develops is that the distinctions between the two types of the shelves influence the delimitation, and hence, these distinctions should be considered by States and international tribunals when establishing borders between the continental shelves beyond 200 M. This thesis also considers the interplay between the regimes of the continental shelf and the Arctic and analyzes how the ECSs in the Arctic can be delimited. Whereas this thesis does not provide the ultimate solution for the delimitation of the ECSs in the Central Arctic Ocean, it attempts to analyze what legal and non-legal factors will influence the establishment of the maritime borders between Russia, Denmark, and Canada and suggests a delimitation scenario.
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