West African countries document continental shelf with Norwegian assistance

Seven West African coastal states have submitted documentation on their continental shelf to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in New York, in order to secure their rights. Norwegian expertise on the Law of the Sea has made this possible.

Seven West African coastal states have submitted documentation on their continental shelf to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in New York, in order to secure their rights. Norwegian expertise on the Law of the Sea has made this possible.

Since 2008, Norway has assisted these countries in collecting and analysing data, has made its expertise available and has helped complete the documentation that is necessary to establish that the continental shelf of these West African countries extends beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines. The cost of the project is NOK 100 million.

‘This is an example of effective aid. The results have been achieved through African ownership, regional cooperation and Norwegian support,’ said Foreign Minister Børge Brende.

Request by the UN

The seven West African countries in this project are Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Senegal and Sierra Leone. The Norwegian assistance has been provided in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and in response to a request by the UN General Assembly. Norway’s Petroleum Directorate, the Norwegian Mapping Authority, Grid-Arendal and the Legal Affairs Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have all contributed expertise.

‘The project has enabled these countries to protect their interests and have the opportunity to exploit their own resources under the Law of the Sea. Determining the outer limits of the continental shelf is important for predictability and security in West Africa, and in particular for the possible exploitation of natural resources,’ said Mr Brende.

The documentation has been submitted to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in New York.

Historic milestone

The Commission will now consider the documentation and make its recommendations as to how far out these countries’ continental shelf extends. The countries themselves can then establish the final outer limits, which are binding according to international law. The Commission does not deal with issues of delimitation lines between neighbouring countries.

‘It is a historic milestone when seven developing countries with meagre resources work together to document the outer limit of their continental shelf. Although some unresolved delimitation issues and political differences remain, these countries agree that it is important to work together in relation to the Law of the Sea. The process of cooperation and the results achieved are an important contribution to security and stability in this unstable region,’ said Foreign Minister Børge Brende.