Part B Commentary on Judgments and Awards in Maritime Boundary Delimitation Disputes, 1 North Sea Continental Shelf Cases (Judgment of the International Court of Justice, 20 February 1969)
Stephen Fietta, Robin Cleverly
- Coastal states — Continental shelf — Delimitation — Straits — Territorial sea — Boundaries
The case described here concerned the delimitation of the North Sea continental shelf between the adjacent coasts of the Federal Republic of Germany, and Denmark and the Netherlands. The court commented that the North Sea has the general look of an enclosed sea without actually being one. Its waters are shallow and the whole seabed consists of a continental shelf mostly less than 200 metres deep. Much of the shelf had already been delimited between the littoral States, largely by way of agreements based on equidistance. These included an agreement made between Denmark and the Netherlands on 31 March 1966, after negotiations with West Germany had broken down, which reflected those two States’ view that delimitation should be based on equidistance. Beforehand, Germany had agreed boundaries immediately adjacent to its coasts with the Netherlands and Denmark by way of agreements dated 1 December 1964 and 9 June 1965, respectively, also based on equidistance. The chapter explains why the concave piece of coastline between the three disputing states was particularly important, and outlines in detail the subsequent events relating to the case.