Part B Commentary on Judgments and Awards in Maritime Boundary Delimitation Disputes, 18 Nicaragua v. Honduras (Judgment of the International Court of Justice, 8 October 2007)
Stephen Fietta, Robin Cleverly
- Coastal states — Delimitation — Straits — Territorial sea — UNCLOS (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea)
The chapter begins with some historic information about this case, which concerned delimitation of the maritime boundary between Nicaragua and Honduras in the Caribbean Sea. Nicaragua and Honduras have adjacent coastlines, separated by the River Coco, and are located in the south-western part of the Caribbean Sea. The chapter discusses the case in detail and concludes by summarizing the significance of the decision for international law. The case is a leading modern example of the rejection of an equidistance/special circumstances approach to maritime delimitation in favour of an alternative methodology that was better suited to the highly unusual geographical and geomorphological context of the case. The court’s judgment is particularly notable in this respect since it followed a series of cases, stretching back more than a decade, in which both the court and arbitral tribunals had embraced the equidistance/special circumstances approach and the drawing of a provisional equidistance line as the first step in the delimitation of single-purpose maritime boundaries.