In 1963 Denmark was the first mainland state to surround an overseas archipelago, the Faroe Islands, with a set of straight baselines. The archipelago has a roughly triangular shape and the two long sides, measuring 60 nm and 44 nm in length, do not conform to the general direction of the coasts of the outermost islands.
In the North Sea, there exists a comprehensive network of continental shelf boundaries – something that can be attributed to the positive and close relationships between the littoral states as well as their urgent desire to gain access to seabed resources. Chronologically, delimitation activity was at its most intense in the period 1965 to 1972. colleagues distinguishes between two types of delimitation. Firstly, those delimitations which were based on the principle
contained in Article 6 of the Convention on the Continental Shelf of 1958 and were largely concluded in the period 1965 to 1968 shortly after the Convention on the Continental Shelf came into force in June 1964. colleagues places the following agreements in this category: Norway and the UK (1965 and 1978), Denmark and Norway (1965 and 1979), Norway and Sweden (1968), Denmark and the UK (1966 and 1971), The Netherlands and the UK (1965 and 1971).
In the Atlantic approaches to the British Isles and northern Europe, including the Irish Sea, southward to the Iberian Peninsula there exist five major boundary situations. From north to south these are Denmark (on behalf of the Faroe Islands)-UK; Ireland (Eire)-UK, in two sections westward between Ireland and Scotland and southwest through the Irish Sea and beyond; France-UK through the English Channel; between France and Spain through the Bay of Biscay; and, between Portugal and Spain. All of these maritime boundaries are now subject to bilateral agreements.
Four states, Denmark (on behalf of the Faroe Islands), Iceland, Ireland and the UK, have made extensive claims to continental shelf in the Rockall Plateau region lying more than 200 nm from all four states. Denmark and Iceland both made their provisional and unilateral claims in 1985 following multiple, and competing, continental shelf designations bon the part of the UK and Ireland in the period 1974 to 1977. There is considerable overlap between these claims with two large areas of trilateral overlap (Denmark/Iceland/UK and Denmark/ Iceland/Ireland) and three areas of bilateral overlap (Denmark/Iceland (in two sections), Iceland/Ireland and Iceland/UK)
The maritime boundary agreement between the Faroe Islands authorities and the UK was finally signed, after over 21 years of intermittent negotiations, on 18 May 1999. The UK’s 200 nm fisheries limit claim was based in large part on small islands located north of the Scottish mainland such as the Flannan Islands, Sule Skerry, Rona and Sula Sgeir whilst the Faroe Islands claimed was based on the straight baseline system around the islands. The Faroe Islands ignored the
small Scottish islands in its claim while the UK ignored the Faroe Islands baselines in its claim, resulting in overlapping claims . The agreement defines separate continental shelf and fishery zone boundaries, with a 2,337 nm2 ‘Special Area’ of joint fisheries jurisdiction to the south of the Faroes.
The delimitation, which is largely based on equidistance but with some selectivity over the use of certain basepoints for either state, extends approximately 500 nm from the tripoint with Norway in the east to the extent of the parties’ 200 nm claims to the west . In due course it is likely that further negotiations between the two states (as well as Iceland and Ireland) will be required to extend the boundary west of the terminal point of the boundary, Point T, in relation to the two states’ continental shelf rights beyond 200 nm from the coast.
In May 1999 Denmark and the United Kingdom concluded an agreement (1999 Agreement) concerning their overlapping claims to fisheries zones and continental shelf in North Atlantic waters located between the Faroe Islands and Scotland.The 1999 Agreement designates continental shelf and fisheries zone boundaries in addition to a ‘Special Area’ of water column that remains subject to the overlapping jurisdictional claims both States.
Design features of provisional joint management frameworks: Within the Special Area each State ‘is entitled to exercise its jurisdiction and rights in accordance with the provisions of Articles 5, 6 and 7’ of the Agreement. Article 5 of the 1999 Agreement establishes a framework for the cooperative exercise of fisheries jurisdiction within the Special Area. Both States are required to apply within the Special Area their respective rules and regulations concerning the management
and conduct of fisheries. They are also required to refrain within the Special Area from (1) inspection and control of vessels operating under a licence issued by the other State; and (2) taking ‘any action that would disregard or infringe upon the exercise of fisheries jurisdiction by the other Party or the conduct of fisheries under license issued by the other Party.
Article 6 of the 1999 Agreement contains several obligations designed to prevent the exercise of continental shelf jurisdiction by both States from impacting upon fishing activities within the Special Area. Both States are obliged, inter alia, to (1) ‘take all possible steps to prevent and eliminate pollution’ from the their ‘offshore activities, in accordance with the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic …’; and (2) provide timely notification to the other State of any activity that may have an adverse impact on the marine environment. Article 7 of the 1999 Agreement contains a provision designed to restrain the unilateral exercise of several aspects of coastal State jurisdiction within the Special Area. It provides as follows:
With regard to the exercise in the Special Area of jurisdiction and rights which are conferred on coastal States by international law, other than such jurisdiction or rights that follow directly from continental shelf or fisheries jurisdiction, each Party shall refrain from exercising such jurisdiction or rights without the agreement of the other Party and shall cooperate with the other Party, notably on measures to protect the marine environment.
The 1999 Agreement does not contain a provision protecting the legal positions of both States concerning their overlapping claims in the Special Area. Rather, the 1999 Agreement is expressed to ‘be without prejudice to any claim of either Party’ outside of ‘the area between the Faroe Irelands and the United Kingdom within 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the territorial sea of each Party is measured’. The clear omission of a clause protecting claims within the Special Area is suggestive of an intention to cooperatively manage this OCA on a permanent basis.
Comment concerning functional coverage:
The 1999 Agreement is functionally focused on fisheries cooperation in the Special Area and contains only general provisions concerning the other important aspect of coastal State jurisdiction beyond 24 nautical miles, namely protection of the marine environment. Environmental management in the Special Area is, however, managed in accordance with detailed provisions set out in the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic, to which both Denmark and the United Kingdom are party.