32 Offshore December 2017 • www.offshore-mag.com
Guinea, are still to be delimited. This affects
practically all of Africa’s maritime waters,
which hold offshore hydrocarbon reserves
(EEZ and ECS waters) of approximately 95
Bboe discovered, and, most importantly, yet-to-be-found reser ves estimated at 70-80 Bboe,
subject to basin limits. 22 Many of these areas,
which are believed to harbor more than half
of Africa’s total reserves, are in near proximity to the present-day unresolved boundaries.
It remains to be seen how this ruling will
affect other maritime boundary disputes
and cases, especially the pending maritime
delimitation case between Somalia and Kenya in which the ICJ will be issuing its decision in the near future. Significantly, Judge
Ronny Abraham of France, who is serving as
ICJ President, was a member of the Special
Chamber that imposed a strict-equidistance
boundary on Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, the
country that had appointed him. 23 If he belongs to the majority, President Abraham normally will be a member of the three-member
committee drafting the ICJ’s judgment in the
case between Somalia and Kenya.
In connection with its request to be pro-
vided with the parties’ written pleadings
and documents, Benin stated that “the view
adopted by the Special Chamber on the de-
limitation of the Ivoiro-Ghanaian maritime
boundary is likely to have an influence on
the delimitation of the maritime areas of the
sub-region, including that of Benin.” 24 However, the Special Chamber pointed out that
“its Judgment is binding only upon Ghana
and Côte d’Ivoire [and] is without prejudice
to the rights and interests of third parties,” 25
which includes neighboring countries.
While the first and only maritime boundar y
case adjudicated by ITLOS, fixing a single
boundary representing an adjusted equidistance line in the EEZs and continental shelves
appertaining to Bangladesh and Myanmar,
respectively, lasted only 27 months, it took
the ITLOS Special Chamber just under 33
months to reach its decision. This compares
favorably with the average of 69 months that
maritime delimitation cases before the ICJ
have taken since 1969. Other tribunals thus
are emerging as a speedier alternative to the
ICJ in maritime delimitation cases. •
Professor Pieter Bekker, LL.M. (Harvard), Ph.D.
(Leiden) holds the Chair in International Law at the
University of Dundee’s Centre for Energy, Petroleum
and Mineral Law and Policy (CEPMLP), where he
is Founding Director of the Dundee Ocean and Lake
Frontiers Institute and Neutrals (DOLFIN). A Dutch
national, he is also a Partner at CMS Cameron
McKenna Nabarro Olswang LLP, the UK law firm. A
former staff lawyer in the ICJ Registry and member of
the New York Bar, Dr. Bekker has appeared as counsel
in numerous cases before international courts and
tribunals, including the ICJ and ITLOS.
Robert van de Poll, B.Sc. (Earth Sciences), M.Sc.
Eng. (Geodesy & Geomatics), is Global Manager Law
of the Sea for Fugro Group, one of the world’s largest
surveying and engineering companies headquartered
in The Netherlands, and he is also the creator of CA-RIS LOTS, the leading Law of the Sea and maritime
boundary software used by the United Nations and by
international courts and tribunals. A Canadian national, he also serves as Geology Director of DOLFIN
and as a CEPMLP Honorary Lecturer.
1. Case concerning delimitation of the maritime
boundary between Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire in the
Atlantic Ocean (Ghana/Côte d’Ivoire), Judgment,
23 Sept. 2017, available at https://www.itlos.org/
2. An equidistance line is a line every point of which
is equidistant from the nearest points on the
baselines from which the breadth of the territorial
sea and other maritime zones of each coastal State
3. The CLCS is an UNCLOS body charged with making recommendations to coastal States on matters
relating to the establishment of the outer limits of
the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles,
without prejudice to the delimitation (i.e., fixing
the course of the lateral limits) of maritime boundaries. See UNCLOS, Art. 76 and Annex II. This
was the first maritime boundary case in which one
of the parties (Ghana) had already received and
accepted recommendations on the outer limits of
its continental shelf from the CLCS.
4. The other members of the Special Chamber were
former ITLOS President Thomas Mensah of
Ghana (appointed by Ghana), Ronny Abraham of
France (appointed by Côte d’Ivoire) and ITLOS
Judges Rüdiger Wolfrum of Germany and Jin-Hyun Paik of the Republic of Korea. Judge Paik
was elected ITLOS President nine days after this
5. The case was entered as Case No. 23 on the list
of cases maintained on the ITLOS Web site, www.
6. While Ghana had described the dispute as one
“concerning the delimitation of its maritime boundary with Côte d’Ivoire” in its Notice of Arbitration,
and while the Special Agreement by which the
parties had transferred the case to the Special
Chamber referred to “the delimitation of [the]
maritime boundary in the Atlantic Ocean” between
Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, during the second round
of written pleadings Ghana started speaking of the
“demarcation” of the boundary that it alleged had
already been delimited by the parties. According
to the International Court of Justice, “’
demarcation’ … presupposes the prior delimitation – in
other words definition – of the frontier.”
Territorial Dispute (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya/Chad), Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1994, p. 6, at 28, para. 56.
7. As used in this analysis, “azimuth” means “the
bearing of a geographical position, measured
clockwise from north through 360 degrees.”
Report of the Law of the Sea Committee, George
K. Walker, “Defining Terms in the 1982 Law of
the Sea Convention III: Analysis of Selected IHO
ECDIS Glossary and Other Terms (Dec. 12, 2003
Initial Draft, Revision 1),” PROCEEDINGS OF
THE AMERICAN BRANCH OF THE INTERNA-
TIONAL LAW ASSOCIATION 2003-2004, p. 187,
8. As the International Court of Justice has observed,
“[t[he bisector method ... seeks to approximate
the relevant coastal relationships, but does so on
the basis of the macro-geography of a coastline as
represented by a line drawn between two points
on the coast.” Territorial and Maritime Boundary
between Nicaragua and Honduras in the Caribbean
Sea (Nicaragua v. Honduras), I.C.J. Reports 2007,
p. 659, at 747, para. 289.
9. See Articles 74 and 83 of UNCLOS (“the delimitation … between States with opposite or adjacent
coasts shall be effected by agreement on the basis
of international law, …, in order to achieve an
10. Judgment, para. 16.
11. Id., para. 586.
12. See id., para 360.
13. British Admiralty, Chart 1383, titled “Lagune Aby
to Tema,” scale 1:350,000, published 1 July 2004
(Latest Edition date: 15 June 2017). This chart
contains no low-water line information in general
proximity to the Land Terminus Point to be used
by both coastal States in constructing the maritime boundary. The coastline that is relevant was
in fact last surveyed between 1837 and 1846. The
coastline as depicted on this nautical chart lacks
any precision when compared to modern-day
14. Judgment, paras. 399-401.
15. Id., para. 490. See also id., paras. 373, 526.
16. Id., para. 533.
17. Id., paras. 541-656.
18. Id., para. 477.
19. See “Baselines: An Examination of the Relevant
Provisions of the United Nations Convention on
the Law of the Sea,” Ch. I.A., Art. 5, sub ( 8), (“It
is recommended that in general the scale should
be within the range 1: 50,000 to 1:200,000”), Art. 5,
sub ( 10) (“ … States … will usually select the low-water line shown on existing charts” (emphasis
added)), UN Doc. E.88.V*.
20. See Judgment, para. 342.
21. See id., para. 628.
22. See Robert van de Poll & David Bishopp,
“Unlocking Trapped Subsurface Resource Value
in Disputed African Maritime Boundaries,”
presentation delivered at the 21st Africa Oil
Week/Africa Upstream conference, Cape Town,
November 2014, available from the DOLFIN Web
23. Judge Abraham also voted in favour of a strict-equidistance finishing segment of the maritime
boundary in Maritime Dispute (Peru v. Chile)
(ICJ Judgment of 27 Jan. 2014, I.C.J. Reports
2014, p. 3), in which advocates for Côte d’Ivoire
had argued for strict equidistance on behalf
of Peru. The same advocates had argued,
unsuccessfully, in favour of strict equidistance
in Delimitation of the maritime boundary in the
Bay of Bengal (Bangladesh v. Myanmar) (ITLOS
Judgment of 14 March 2012, ITLOS Reports 2012,
p. 4) before a tribunal including Thomas Mensah,
the Judge ad hoc appointed by Ghana.
24. Letter from the Minister for Foreign Affairs of
the Republic of Benin to ITLOS, 28 Sept. 2016,
Rejoinder of Côte d’Ivoire, Vol. III, Annex 187,
text available at www.itlos.org.
25. Judgment, para. 323.