UNCLOS Annex VII Tribunal decides Bangladesh-India maritime boundary dispute

On 7 July 2014, an Arbitral Tribunal constituted under Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (the Convention) issued its award in the Bay of Bengal Maritime Boundary Arbitration between the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and the Republic of India, granting approximately 106,613km2 to Bangladesh and 300,220 km2 to India, out of a total relevant area of 406,833km2. The Award provides much needed clarity on the maritime entitlements of both Bangladesh and India.

Like the 2012 decision of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in the Bangladesh/Myanmar case, a consequence of the delimitation was the creation of a small “grey area” creating potential overlapping entitlements of Bangladesh, India and Myanmar (which was not a party to the arbitration).

While in deciding larger uncertainties over the entitlements of Bangladesh and India the Tribunal created new (albeit smaller) uncertainties over competing sovereign rights in the grey area, the Tribunal’s encouragement of the parties to cooperate in the exercise of their sovereign rights is to be welcomed. There are a number of precedents where states have shared rights in maritime areas to achieve a favourable solution for all parties.

The Award also provides an excellent precedent for the peaceful settlement of maritime boundary disputes and shows how States can de-politicise sovereignty issues and cooperate to achieve political and commercial certainty.

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