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Commission on Limits of Continental Shelf Concludes Forty-first Session

The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf held its forty-first session at United Nations Headquarters from 11 July to 26 August.

The Commission devoted two weeks of that session to plenary meetings (18‑22 July and 15-19 August). During the five remaining weeks, the Commission, working through its subcommissions, continued the technical examination of submissions at the Geographic Information Systems laboratories and other technical facilities of the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs.

Ten active subcommissions had meetings during the forty-first session. These were the subcommissions established for consideration of the submissions made by the Russian Federation in respect of the Arctic Ocean; Brazil in respect of the Brazilian Southern Region (partial revised submission); Norway in respect of Bouvetøya and Dronning Maud Land; South Africa in respect of the mainland of the territory of the Republic of South Africa; the Federated States of Micronesia, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, jointly, concerning the Ontong Java Plateau; France and South Africa, jointly, in the area of the Crozet Archipelago and the Prince Edward Islands; Kenya; Mauritius in the region of Rodrigues Island; Nigeria; and Seychelles.

Several subcommissions met with the respective delegations. In a demonstration of the importance given by submitting coastal States to their interactions with the subcommissions, some of these delegations were represented at a high level — most notably the delegation of the Russian Federation was headed by Sergei E. Donskoi, Minister for Natural Resources and Environment, and subsequently by Evgeny A. Kiselev, Deputy Minister, and the delegation of Kenya was headed by Githu Muigai, Attorney-General.

At the plenary level, the Commission adopted, without a vote, two sets of recommendations, namely the recommendations in regard to the submission made by the Cook Islands in respect of the Manihiki Plateau, and the recommendations in respect to the submission made by Uruguay.

The Commission also commenced, at the plenary level, its consideration of three sets of draft recommendations transmitted to it, during the session, by the respective subcommissions. These were the draft recommendations in regard to (i) the joint submission made by the Federated States of Micronesia, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, concerning the Ontong Java Plateau; (ii) the submission made by Norway in respect of Bouvetøya and Dronning Maud Land; and (iii) the submission made by South Africa in respect of the mainland of the territory of the Republic of South Africa. The delegations of these submitting States made their final presentations on matters related to their submissions to the plenary of the Commission. In accordance with rule 53 of its rules of procedure, the Commission decided to defer further consideration of these draft recommendations to its forty-third session to be held in the period of February and March 2017.

Several recent submissions were presented by the delegations of their respective submitting States before the plenary of the Commission, namely the submissions made by Denmark, in respect of (i) the southern continental shelf of Greenland, (ii) the north-eastern continental shelf of Greenland and (iii) the northern continental shelf of Greenland; France, in respect of Saint Pierre and Miquelon; and Somalia. Côte d’Ivoire also made a presentation before the plenary of the Commission to address the amendments made to its original submission.

In addition, the Commission established three new subcommissions to consider the submissions made by Côte d’Ivoire; France, concerning La Réunion Island and Saint-Paul and Amsterdam Islands; and Sri Lanka.

Having considered the request made by the twenty-sixth Meeting of States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (see SPLOS/303, paragraph 85), the Commission decided that, in 2017, it would continue to meet for a total of 21 weeks per year by holding three sessions of seven weeks each and that 4 of those 21 weeks would be devoted to plenary meetings. The Commission also reiterated its decision that, subject to the approval of the General Assembly, three weeks of plenary meetings would be held during the forty-third session. Consequently, the Commission decided that the forty-fourth session would be held with only one week devoted to plenary meetings and that the forty-fifth session would be held with no plenary meetings. The Commission also decided that the exact dates for its sessions would be determined by Member States in due course in the context of the General Assembly resolution on “oceans and the law of the sea”.

Recalling that 2017 will mark the twentieth anniversary of its establishment, the Commission decided that it will convene a half-day open meeting during its forty-third session to commemorate that occasion. Member States of the United Nations, States parties to the Convention and intergovernmental organizations will be among those invited. An open-ended working group of the Commission will manage the details.

The Commission also paid tribute to the memory of one of its former members, Karl Hinz (Germany), who had passed away on 8 August. Mr. Hinz had been a member of the Commission from 1997 to 2002. He contributed substantially to the work of the Commission and the development of its main documents. During his post-Commission years, he provided advice to a number of States in the preparation of their submissions. The commemorative meeting was attended by a representative of the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations.

Additional information about the forty-first session will be reflected in the Statement by the Chairperson of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf on the progress of work in the Commission, which will be issued as document CLCS/95.

Source: United Nations