Spatial Allocation of Continental Shelf Rights in the Timor Sea:
Reflections on Maritime Delimitation and Joint Development
By Nuno Sérgio Marques Antunes, Lt.Cdr. (Portuguese Navy), Law Diploma (Lisbon), MA (Durham), PhD (Durham).
Published on-line by the Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy (CEPMLP), Dundee University, Scotland, UK. Internet Journal, Vol.13 - Article 13, 2003
In April 2003, the author wrote a Postscript to this article. (PDF, 1 page)
For the international lawyer, the subject ‘East Timor’ may be approached from different angles: e.g. self-determination, use of force, state succession, acquisition of territory. This article focuses on one of the starkest consequences of East Timor’s independence: the issue of spatial allocation of continental shelf rights in the Timor Sea. The first part provides a brief historical account of relevant developments in this respect. Drawing on these developments, the second part investigates aspects concerning maritime delimitation and joint development. Factors that might be relevant for a legal determination of seabed boundaries, and the joint development solution that has been devised in the Timor Sea, are briefly examined. Whilst looking into specific aspects of the Australia/East Timor situation, it is argued that, as means for attributing jurisdiction over seabed resources, maritime delimitation is in principle to be preferred to joint development. Secondly, it is suggested that, since maritime delimitation and joint development are conceptual archetypes from which ‘combined solutions’ are derived, their understanding forms the bedrock for spatial allocation of continental shelf rights. Finally, it is submitted that, as illustrated by the ‘Timor Sea situation’, the impact of realpolitik might be such that extrapolations, from solutions reached in one specific setting to another setting, should not be lightly made.