Issue 02 2016

The Arbitral Award in the Bangladesh-India Maritime Delimitation in the Bay of Bengal and its Contribution to International Maritime Boundary Law: A Case Commentary

by Suzette V. SUAREZ

The Arbitral Tribunal rendered its Award in the maritime delimitation dispute between Bangladesh and India in the Bay of Bengal on 7 July 2014. It delimited the parties’ territorial sea, exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf, including the area beyond 200 nautical miles. Overall, the Arbitral Tribunal’s approach in delimiting the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf between Bangladesh and India stayed faithful to established jurisprudence, which is mainly a preference for the application of the equidistance line unless relevant circumstances exist to justify adjustment of the line. The Arbitral Tribunal’s decision to exercise jurisdiction despite the absence of recommendations concerning the outer limits from the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf was sound as it clarifies that in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea: (1) delimitation and delineation, while interconnected, are two separate processes, and (2) delineation is not a prerequisite to delimitation. Unfortunately, the Arbitral Tribunal was restrained in its consideration of the role that Article 76 plays in the delimitation of the continental shelf beyond 200 nm, thereby losing the historical opportunity to offer the first judicial or arbitral articulation of the law surrounding the issue.

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