Feature Article

Colombo awaits UN approval to seize 25-fold larger extent of sea than its landmass

[TamilNet, Saturday, 24 November 2018, 14:52 GMT]
While waging the genocidal onslaught on Eezham Tamils in 2009, the SL State filed a submission to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), on 08 May 2009, seeking to extend the outer limits of the continental shelf, reportedly by 1,000 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of its territorial sea. The SL State is claiming the marine area to the effect of twenty-five times of its land area, covering a vast expanse of the south of the Bay of Bengal. The SL State submitted the report with the assistance (grant and credit) from Norway's Development Agency, the NORAD. Several other western countries also backed the move while the SL State was committing a genocide and the LTTE vessels were being systematically destroyed in the high seas with the intelligence information coming from the USA.

SL Claim of outer continental shelf

An illustration explaining the current zones
The current zones
Executive Summary of the SL Continental Shelf Submission
The planned zone extends to the red dots in the map [Image courtesy: Executive Summary of the SL Continental Shelf Submission]
Under the international law, a maritime state is entitled to a 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which stretches from it's 12 nautical mile territorial sea.

The UN Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS), in its Paragram 1 of the article 76 states that the “continental shelf of a maritime state comprises the seabed and sub-soil of the submarine areas that extend beyond its territorial sea throughout the natural prolongation of its land territory to the outer edge of the continental margin”.

However, if a country wants to extend its claim for EEZ beyond the 200 nautical mile limit to more than 350 nautical miles from its coastline, it has to make a submission to the CLCS.

Then, the formal application has to prove that the seafloor in that area possesses one of two characteristics (i) a certain thickness of sedimentary rocks, or (ii) the existence of certain morphological/topographic features.

The SL State had set-up a Sinhala-only expert team to handle the project in 2003. The project was named Delimitation of the Outer Edge of the Continental Margin (DEOCOM).

Several foreign institutions and experts from the USA, the UK, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Germany and Russia have been deployed in the project to enable the SL State to prepare the submission on time before the deadline set to 13 May 2009 to gain an “outer continental shelf”.

The DEOCOM was extensively briefed and assisted by the SL Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

The SL ministries involved foreign experts in making an extensive claim to the continental margin beyond the current EEZ.

SL Claim of outer continental shelf
[Illustration courtesy: ft.lk]

Norway has given 14.2 million Norwegian kroner (USD 2 million) as the grant for consultancy service and 36.92 million NOK (USD 5.2 million) as mixed credit for acquisition and seismic data related work. The utilisation of Norwegian funds at the date of the winding-up of the project on 31 December 2012, stood at 43.62 million NOK. NORAD provided the grants and loan until 2008.

The foreign powers would have thought of oil and energy-related gains by aiding and abetting the SL State to submit the application.

The foreign input enabled the SL State to argue that the Annex II of the Final Act of Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea as providing an alternative to the two standard formulas specified in UNCLOS Articles 76(4)(a)(i) and (ii) of the Convention for establishing the outer limit of the continental margin.

While the standard conventions enable a maritime state to claim 200 nautical miles “Sri Lanka from its baseline claimed about 1,000 nautical miles, which is India and Bangladesh's continental shelf territory,” a news report by the Daily Mirror said citing a Dhaka official in 2016.

Infographic explaining maritime zones as defined by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea
Infographic explaining maritime zones as defined by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea [Image courtesy: noaa.gov]

The Maldives in a letter submitted on 04 August 2009 said it “reserves the right to comment on the submission made by Sri Lanka at a later stage,” as the Maldives was on the process of making its own submission of the outer limits of its continental shelf.

In October 2010, Bangladesh also reserved the rights. The Bangladeshi note said: “It also appears that Sri Lanka has claimed an outer continental shelf entitlement in an area that is 350 nautical miles more from the baseline from which the breadth of its territorial sea is measured and more than 100 nautical miles from the 2,500 metres isobaths, and thus beyond the constraints line established by Article 76(5) of the Convention”.

India, in a letter dated 10 May 2010, said it took note of paragraphs 3.3 and 3.4 of the Executive Summary of SL submission which stated that “the submission is without prejudice to the delimitation of maritime boundaries between States with opposite or adjacent coasts” and that the submission would “without prejudice to any future agreement between India and Sri Lanka.”

The Indian statement didn't specifically object to anything but stressed on mutual understanding between New Delhi and Colombo, which was an indirect objection.

NOAC perspective of continental shelf
Image of Indian Ocean seafloor as prepared by SL State's National Ocean Affairs Committee (NOAC) [Photo courtesy: economynext.com]

Reportedly, six or seven boundary segments among the countries in the Bay of Bengal are yet to be fixed by the CLCS, which is established under the UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS).

The CLCS is currently in progress to review the submissions. Its forty-eighth session is convened for seven weeks, from 15 October to 30 November 2018.

SL Delegation to CLCS
The SL delegation led by Dr Rohan Perera presented its Continental Shelf Submission before the Sub-commission established by the CLCS in October 2016. The presentation was assisted by New Zealand's expert on the subject, Ray Wood. Ray is a geologist and geophysicist. He started his career with Shell's research laboratory in Houston, and moved to New Zealand in 1979. He was one of the technical advisors to the delegation that negotiated New Zealand's maritime boundaries with Australia and has presented numerous talks on the application of Article 76, and is helping many countries to write their continental shelf submissions. [L-R] H.E. Dr. Rohan Perera, Dr. Hiran Jayawardene, Dr. N. P. Wijayananda, Dr. Ray Wood, Mr. Nalin de Silva, Mr. Saman Perera, Mr. Parinda Ranasinghe, Mrs. Tilani Silva, Ambassador A.S.Khan and Ms. Sonali Samarasinghe [Photo courtesy: Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations, Vol. 1, 31 Dec 2016]

* * *

The CLCS report from August 2018 provides the latest status on the process as follows:

“The Chair of the subcommission, Mr. Yáñez Carrizo, reported on the progress of the work done by the subcommission at the forty-seventh session, noting that it had met from 16 to 27 July 2018, during which time it had continued the main scientific and technical examination of the submission.

“The subcommission held five meetings with the delegation, during which several presentations were made, including with regard to additional information provided by the delegation in response to requests for clarification made by the subcommission at the forty-sixth session. The subcommission subsequently transmitted a communication to the delegation summarizing the status of its consideration of the submission and highlighting pending issues.

“The Chair of the subcommission also reported to the Commission on certain substantive matters concerning the submission. During the ensuing discussion, members of the Commission provided feedback and the subcommission responded to questions.

“The subcommission took note of the resignation of Mr. Lyu, which brought down the membership of the subcommission to six members.

“The subcommission decided that its members would continue to work individually on the submission during the intersessional period and that it would resume its consideration of the submission during the forty-eighth session, including through meetings with the delegation.”

* * *

SL Claim of outer continental shelf
Note the claim of SL State for an outer continental shelf beyond the standard 200 nautical mile limit [Image courtesy: Daily News]

The North Indian attitude and its foreign policy outlook has always been supportive of the Sinhala-Buddhist rulers of the genocidal state of Sri Lanka.

However, Tamil Nadu with Kerala in the west and Andhra in the east sharing the coast facing the maritime boundary with the SL State should have a say on the sea basin in the Indian Ocean.

These states and the people in them should have an interest, especially with regards to possibly submerged landmasses before the historical times.

It is the failure of the South Indian states to play a role in shaping the Indian foreign policy, especially the maritime doctrine of India, that has politically strengthened the SL State to extend its sovereignty through genocide on the land and through exploiting the Indian-Ocen centric geopolitics in the sea.

The Tamil Nadu establishment, still talking about a tiny islet of Kachchatheevu in the Historic Waters (Palk Strait), and staging conferences on the legacy of Chola dynasty that had a maritime policy, should wake up at least now, realising the real civilisational threat being posed by the marine outlook of genocidal Sri Lanka.

External Links:
Daily FT: Sri Lanka’s continental shelf: Safeguard our national interests before it is too late!
Daily Mirror: Dhaka objects to SL continental shelf claim
The Wire : Why India Needs to Be on the International Continental Shelf Commission
Daily News: Safeguarding Lanka’s continental shelf
Journal of the National Science Foundation of Sri Lanka: Claiming the sea area belonging to Sri Lanka according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
Sunday Observer: Top German Brands in Sri Lanka



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