The Challenges of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is one of the most important multilateral agreements achieved by humankind. For the first time in our history we have one global document that has an effective impact over seventy percent of our planet’s surface. Adopted in 1982, after nine years of intense negotiations, during the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, this convention reflects, in a unique package, a multitude of issues that challenged the relationship among the nations in the past. It also sets some new challenges when breaking down our global and continuous ocean into several distinct geographic domains. While some of these domains were inherit from previously agreed conventions, such as the Territorial Sea, Continuous Zone and the High Seas, some others were introduced as new, such as the Economic Exclusive Zone and the Area. Within the set of the maritime domains, the concept of legal continental shelf was thoroughly reviewed during the Third Conference, handing up in an agreed complex formulae to establish its outer limit. As an exercise of sovereignty, these outer limits are defined by coastal States and, the latter one, the continental shelf, must be submitted to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf that issues recommendations in order to be accepted by the international community. This paper describes the evolution of the concept of the continental shelf in international law and addresses the role and the challenges for the Commission on the Limits when considering the coastal States’ submissions to establish the outer limits in accordance with Article 76 of the Convention.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGlobal Challenges and the Law of the Sea
EditorsMarta Chantal Ribeiro, Fernando Loureiro Bastos, Tore Henriksen
Place of PublicationBerlim
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-42671-2
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-42670-5
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2020


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