AMBALAT: A SPATIAL AND TECHNICAL PERSPECTIVE
During March 2005, the bilateral relationship between Indonesia and Malaysia deteriorated. This was primarily related to competing claims to the “Ambalat offshore area” located in the east of Borneo Island in the Celebes (Sulawesi) Sea.
The dispute resulted in strong reactive responses in both countries, but particularly in Indonesia. This is understandable as many Indonesians generally believe that the dispute deals with sovereignty and are concerned over further territorial losses in the aftermath of Malaysia’s victory in the case concerning Sipadan and Ligitan islands with Indonesia in 2002. Regardless of reasons the International Court of Justice (ICJ) provided, most Indonesians were simply disappointed. Since issues of international boundaries, territory, sovereignty and sovereign rights are highly sensitive, it is important for all concerned from both countries have to really understand the scientific, technical, and legal dimensions of any dispute.
This paper discusses the case of Ambalat in a spatial and technical perspective. Simulations have been done exercising the maritime claims of Indonesia and Malaysia in Celebes Sea using global chart data. GIS software, CARIS LOTS™, was utilized as an assisting tool to technically generate baselines, maritime zone limits and maritime boundary lines for the two countries. The simulations spatially show the change of Indonesia’s baseline due to the ‘loss’ of Sipadan and Ligitan islands that consequently change the boundary. Conclusions are then drawn as to the relative merits of each State’s claims to Ambalat and the prospects for resolution of the dispute.
Keywords: sovereignty, baselines, maritime zones, maritime boundaries, GIS, dispute
1A Lecturer at Department of Geodetic Engineering, UGM, currently studying technical aspect of International Maritime Boundaries at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
2Senior Lecturer, Centre for Maritime Policy, University of Wollongong, Australia