Guyana Wednesday made a submission containing all the relevant data with respect to Guyana’s claim to an extended continental shelf pursuant to Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkette announced yesterday.
Like other States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Guyana commissioned a desktop study in 2002 to determine, from data available both in Guyana and overseas, whether Guyana met the basic criteria to make a claim to an extended continental shelf which, according to the provisions of Convention, can be up to a limit of 150 nautical miles from the 200 nautical mile outer limit of the exclusive economic zone of coastal States.
Minister Rodrigues-Birkette said that a key objective for commissioning that desktop study was to ensure that the commissioning of other more expensive works, including seismic data gathering that could cost millions of dollars, would not be a costly exercise in futility.
She said that the study, which was funded with the assistance of the Commonwealth Secretariat and conducted by Dr. Galo Carrera, determined that Guyana met the criteria to claim an extended continental shelf.
In May 2009, Guyana provided initial information to the Secretary General of the United Nations, regarding Guyana’s claim to an extended continental shelf.
Wednesday’s submission is expected to be formally and orally presented by Guyana to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf at its next session in April next year, Rodrigues-Birkette announced.
She noted that given the workload of that Commission, it will be some years before Guyana’s submission is examined by that body and for it to make recommendations on the outer limit of Guyana’s extended continental shelf.
“Guyana has acted in its interest and has taken action to ensure that in the future it has the legal basis to benefit from and protect its rights,” Rodrigues stated.
The Minister noted that the Maritime Zones Act, which came into force last year, constituted another key component of the Government of Guyana’s strategy which is aimed at ensuring that Guyana and Guyanese can benefit from the resources in its maritime zones and to protect the country’s rights to them.
Rodrigues-Birkette pointed out that in accordance with the provisions of the Convention, Guyana’s jurisdiction in the continental shelf appurtenant to it beyond 200 nautical miles, will be restricted to the living resources that are in constant contact with the sea bed, but not those in the water column between the sea bed and its surface, as obtains in the exclusive economic zone.
Guyana will however have exclusive jurisdiction over the resources under the seabed – that would include any hydrocarbon or mineral deposits, she said.
The Foreign Affairs Minister declared that Guyana’s submission of a claim to an extended continental shelf has been made without prejudice to any future delimitation of maritime boundaries with neighbouring States.
“In fact, the Convention and the Guidelines of the Commission precludes States from using the recommendations of the Commission as the basis for declaring or purporting to declare bilateral boundaries with neighbouring States,” Rodrigues-Birkette stated.
She said that between 2008 and 2010 Guyana entered into consultations with Barbados, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago with respect to the preparation of Guyana’s claim and so promoted a “modus vivendi” whereby all four States would make their submissions without prejudice to eventual delimitation and without objections from the others.
“It was very important for Guyana to engage in such diplomacy since Guyana is geographically wedged in the middle of all three coastal States.
“It is a truism that all of the submissions made to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf overlap,” the Foreign Minister stated.
She thanked Mr. Newell Dennison of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, who worked very hard with the Staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in support of the work of Dr. Galo Carrera to complete the submission.
There were expressions of gratitude to the Commonwealth Secretariat and to the German Institute for Geosciences for their unswerving support to the process that led to the completion of the submission.
Minister Rodrigues-Birkette noted that Dr. Carrera has worked hard and methodically to ensure that Guyana has the best submission possible, and she recognized his commitment and diligent work.
The Foreign Affairs Minister also thanked Mr. Keith George, who has been the lead person in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the matter.
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