Journal Article

The Notion of Natural Prolongation in the Current Regime of the Continental Shelf: An Afterlife?

Bing Bing Jia

in Chinese Journal of International Law

Volume 12, issue 1, pages 79-103
Published in print March 2013 | ISSN: 1540-1650
Published online March 2013 | e-ISSN: 1746-9937 | DOI:
The Notion of Natural Prolongation in the Current Regime of the Continental Shelf: An Afterlife?

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The juridical continental shelf (CS), in terms of Article 76(1) of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (the LOS Convention), relies for its existence on the presence of a continental margin, which in turn depends on the existence of a natural prolongation. This is the principle expounded by this article, in the light of the provisions of Article 76(1) and (3) of the LOS Convention and other types of evidence of State practice. The prolongation, being geological in nature, is a necessary element underlying any claim to a juridical CS. Thus, in litigations, evidence must be led of its existence in support of such a claim. Even if the degree of influence exerted by the doctrine of natural prolongation upon the entitlement to the juridical CS and the delimitation of that entitlement between opposite or adjacent States are yet to be made clear in practice, the doctrine still has a separate life, of increasing importance, in today's legal regime of the CS. This is said in spite of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) judgment in Libya/Malta that emphasizes the distance criterion in respect of the continental shelf within 200 nm. The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) judgment in the recent Bangladesh/Myanmar delimitation case has provided an interesting interpretation of the notion of natural prolongation, and implicitly confirmed the relevance of the notion to the entitlement to the continental shelf in question. The case law in this regard has been significant, but other categories of State practice are also evolving that may underlie a new trend of giving the notion of natural prolongation a renewed, prominent place in this field.

Journal Article.  11399 words. 

Subjects: International Law

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