La’o Hamutuk

Bulletin  |  Surat Popular  |  Topic index  |  Reports & Announcements  |  Updates
Reference  |   Presentations  |  Mission Statement  |  LH Blog  |  Search  |  Home

Timor Sea Oil History 1971-2003

For a more detailed history from 1893 to the present, see the Chronology of Timor Sea Developments.


1971 Agreement between Australia and Indonesia Establishing Certain Seabed Boundaries  PDF

1972 Supplemental Agreement Between Australia and Indonesia Establishing Certain Seabed Boundaries   PDF

1982 UN Convention on the Law of The Sea (UNCLOS), also as a PDF
This UN-provided overview also requires an internet connection.

1989 Treaty between Australia and Indonesia on the Zone of Cooperation in an area between the Indonesian Province of East Timor and Northern Australia [Timor Gap Treaty]   PDF

1991 Oil companies rush to sign contracts for exploration, one month after the Santa Cruz Massacre

1995 East Timor Documents Volume 38 including the decision of the International Court of Justice on the Timor Gap Case, and various relevant commentaries and reports.

1997 Treaty between Australia and Indonesia establishing an exclusive economic zone boundary and certain seabed boundaries, establishing Australian acceptance of the median line principle. PDF  National Impact Analysis

Legal and Historical Analyses

The last frontier: Australia’s maritime territories and the policing of Indonesian fishermen. By Ruth Balint, 1999

Aid, Trade and Oil: Australia's Second Betrayal of East Timor. By Tim Anderson, Journal of Australian Political Economy, December 2003 (PDF)

The Timor Gap, 1972-2002  by Robert King. July 2002. (Also PDF, 48 pages)

Bounty versus Boundaries: The pursuit of equity and certainty over and down under the Timor Sea by Jim Mellor. August 2002.  Executive Summary   Full paper (PDF, 79 pages)

Spatial Allocation of Continental Shelf Rights in the Timor Sea: Reflections on Maritime Delimitation and Joint Development  By Nuno Sérgio Marques Antunes, Portuguese Navy, February 2003.  Abstract    Full paper (PDF, 48 pages)

The Offshore Jurisdiction of Timor Leste in the Timor Sea, by Jeffrey Smith, March 2003

The Timor Sea's Oil and Gas: What's Fair? (PDF) by Father Frank Brennan SJ for the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC) (August 2004)

PetroTimor, a small speculative oil company from the U.S., has published a variety of documents relating to the Timor Sea Treaty. The most comprehensive is a legal opinion In the Matter of East Timor's Maritime Boundaries by Vaughan Lowe, Christopher Carleton, and Christopher Ward. April 2002. (Also PDF, 28 pages)

Recent legal developments

February 2000: UNTAET and Australia exchange notes (PDF) to continue terms of the Indonesia-Australia Timor Gap Treaty.

April 2001: UNTAET Oil Minister Peter Galbraith speech to the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association Conference & exhibition Hobart, Tasmania

July 2001: East Timor (UNTAET) and Australia sign Timor Sea Arrangement (PDF)

March 2002: Australia withdraws from judicial processes for setting boundaries 
    Press release (PDF) from Australian government

National Interest Analyses (from Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade)

UNTAET Fact Sheet from April 2002

May 2002: Timor Sea Treaty and other documents signed

The Timor Sea Treaty and a Memorandum of Understanding between Australia and East Timor concerning an International Unitisation Agreement for Greater Sunrise were signed in Dili by Australia and East Timor on 20 May 2002, together with an exchange of Notes (From East Timor to Australia, From Australia to East Timor) constituting an agreement governing the exploration and exploitation of petroleum in the area.

Australian National Interest Analysis on Timor Sea Treaty

Australian National Interest Analysis on Exchange of Notes

East Timorese NGOs write to their Parliament about the Treaty

July-November 2002: Australian Parliament gathers testimony, holds hearings, issues report on the Timor Sea Treaty. They ratified the treaty in March 2003.

August 2002: East Timor enacts boundary legislation

The Maritime Boundary law (Law no. 7/2002) was passed by East Timor's Parliament on 23 July 2002 and  signed into law by President Xanana Gusmão on 24 August. The official text is in Portuguese. It claims 200 nautical miles from East Timor's shoreline, as shown in green on the map below and explained on this government fact sheet.

3 October 2002: East Timor Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri writes Australian PM John Howard to propose initial discussions on boundaries. Nearly a year of frustrated correspondence follows. See Oilweb Boundary index page for details on the continuing negotiations.

27 November 2002: Australian Foreign Minister lectures East Timor's Prime Minister in Dili, promising to establish a boundary resolution process soon after the New Year.

17 December 2002: East Timor's Parliament Ratifies Timor Sea Treaty

January 2003: Once again, East Timor asks Australia to begin discussions about a permanent maritime boundary. Once again, Australia fails to respond.

6 March 2003: Greater Sunrise Unitisation Agreement and MOU on annual payments  signed in Dili.

6 March 2003: Australian Parliament ratifies Timor Sea Treaty. The ratification was cheered by the oil companies involved, including Santos (PDF) and Woodside, although some considered that Australia had blackmailed East Timor by holding up ratification.

2 April 2003: Timor Sea Treaty enters into force, as announced by East Timor's government. New temporary production sharing contracts come into effect.

16 April 2003: In an op-ed column in the Australian Financial Review, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri reminds Australia that the boundaries have not yet been settled. He explained his views in an interview in Argus Energy's Asia Gas and Power (PDF, pp 8-9).

16 May 2003: Australia and East Timor agree on Production Sharing Contracts (PDF) and the Development Plan for Bayu-Undan.

June-July 2003: Australian Parliament collects submissions, holds hearings, and issues a report on the Sunrise Unitization Agreement.

5 July 2003: East Timor's National Parliament enacts Taxation of Bayu-Undan Contractors (Portuguese) and Timor Sea Petroleum Development (Tax Stability) (Portuguese) laws.

12 November 2003: Negotiators from East Timor and Australia meet in Darwin for the first "scoping session" of maritime boundary negotiations.

For more recent and comprehensive information see this chronology elsewhere on OilWeb.

The Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis (La’o Hamutuk)
Institutu Timor-Leste ba Analiza no Monitor ba Dezenvolvimentu
Rua D. Alberto Ricardo, Bebora, Dili, Timor-Leste
P.O. Box 340, Dili, Timor-Leste
Tel: +670-3321040 or +670-77234330
email:    Web:    Blog: