Within the period of 6-14 August 2008, Oslo city and surrounding was packed with approximately 6000 geoscientists from around the globe. The 33rd International Geological Congress was held in one of the most beautiful cities in the Scandinavia. Among those geoscientists, prominent names of experts in the law of the sea are also present in one of the special session: UNLOS Symposium.
Being a very big conference, it was impossible to attend every single session since most of them were parallel. For me, UNCLOS Symposium was the only relevant session where I spent my two days attending every single talk. It was a privilege to be in such an important forum, meeting with big names that I only saw previously in textbooks, newspapers, and the internet. Several members of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) were also there since the main topic of the symposium was Extended Continental Shelf (ECS).
It was decided that a proceeding will be published by the end of this year so that there will be an official and updated documentation for future reference. All authors are suggested to submit their final paper by 1 October 2008.
Herald Brekke, one of the Commissioners opened the symposium early in the morning of 7 August 2008 and then asked Peter Croker, the former chair of CLCS, to be the first presenter in the first session. He presented the latest development in CLCS’ works and his prediction on the future workload of the Commission due to ECS submission made by coastal States. He also mentioned the approximate number of coastal States submitting their ECS in which Commissioners will need to work really hard to accomplish their tasks.
Christian Reichert from BGR, Germany then followed with second presentation concerning marine natural resources and UNCLOS implication. It was originally planned that the symposium would have special session for marine resources but only one paper concerns the issues so that it was then put in the same session with other presentations.
An interesting topic was then presented by Lindsay Parson, one of the prominent experts in the continental shelf field. He presented the advantages and disadvantages of multi-State ECS submission. Lindsay also defined what he meant by coordinated and joint submissions as well as the situation in which such submissions are required.
The second session started at 10.30 am concerning the scientific issues, chaired by Philip Symonds, the current Commissioner from Australia. For technical people, this session must be really interesting since many technical issues were presented and discussed.
The first presentation was by Hjalmar Eysteinsson (determination of maximum change in gradient in relation to the definition of FOS). It has to be admitted that many technical and fancy terms were introduced during the presentation which made it looks complicated. Furthermore, the presenter could not avoid presenting a lot of mathematical formula in his talks, which made it even more unfamiliar to me. The second presentation was interestingly presented by an International Lawyer (Kaare Bangert). He drew our attention to his idea that current continental shelf is a about legal adoption and transformation of geomorphologic concepts. Interesting discussion then followed his so-called ‘controversial’ presentation. There was a discussion concerning the possibility that legal concept will take over geological concept, or the other way around, in the definition of ECS. Kaare also presented his topic without any single slide. After this, another presentation was delivered by Suzanne Maclachlan from the University of Southampton, UK. She presented a very technical and yet interesting issue concerning the complex relationship between the prominent sedimentary features and FOS selection.
After lunch at 2 pm, the third session started with a broad topic of data management, chaired by Lindsay Parson. The first presenter was Manuel Burgos talking about the use of global data in plausibly defining the outer limits of continental shelf. Following this presentation, Joan Fabres from the UNEP Shelf Program presented the current works of UNEP shelf Program on behalf of Manuel Burgos. He clearly highlighted what the program has been doing so far and asserted that this program is there to help developing States and small islands developing States to deal with delineating their continental shelf. Joan also introduced the website, http://www.continentalshelf.org, where people can read the latest information and also request data.
Robert Roland, also known as Bob, presented his experience and knowledge concerning the operational factors affecting an UNCLOS seismic survey on an ice-covered extended continental shelf. Bob came with many beautiful and yet heroic pictures of conducting surveys in an ice-covered area. I know Bob personally and was lucky to hear his experience in sailing around the globe. Bob, in my opinion, has really been making his hands dirty in the field for such a long time.
Second segment of data management session was continued at 4 pm with Mikail Pedersen presenting digital infrastructure of the Danish Continental Shelf Project. His presentation gave an impression that Denmark has been doing good preparation in the project of delineating its ECS. Not only has Denmark good human resources, it has also established a digital system to handle the project. With this system, data can be well managed and version can also be, ideally, well maintained. The system also facilitates collaboration among several institutions involved in the project.
Robert Van de Poll from Fugro then took the audience flying to all 155 States around the globe to see the latest status of their ECS project. The 30-minute presentation run very fast as Robert really needed to provide summary of all the 155 States. He made a very good summary updating the current situation, even though it was, to me, a little bit too fast. It is amazing that Robert managed to present his work for almost all coastal States in the world.
Aldino Campos from Portugal ended the first day with an update on geomorphometric data infrastructure for the Portuguese continental shelf extension project. Similar to Mikail, Aldino presented an interesting system how Portugal handles the project of its ECS. The system he presented can handle geospatial and attribute data quite well. Similar to Denmark’s, the system can also manage the version of data for future reference.
I, the only participant from Indonesia in this symposium, was the first presenter in the second day, 8 August 2008. The session started a bit late as the train from Oslo Central was delayed. All participants also came late to the venue. The session was about national delineation projects in progress and was chaired by Ruth Jackson from Geological Survey Canada. Having prepared quite intensively, I stared the presentation with a short introduction and then followed by other important points concerning Indonesia’s extended continental shelf. It seemed that the presentation was well-understood by the audience and they were entertained by some animation slides. Four questions and comments were made by the participants including Shin Tani (Japan), Christian Marcussen, Tomas Heidar, and a fellow from somewhere in Asia, which I am not sure about.
The next presentation was by Victor Poselov from Russia. He made a very interesting presentation and also, in my opinion, one of the most wanted talks since it had something to do with the submission by Russia, the first submission ever made by a coastal State. He addressed technical issues in current expedition/field survey conducted by Russia in order to make a new submission to the Commission. Victor confirmed that Russia might need another three years to re-submit.
Martin Vang Heinesen followed the presentation by Victor with an update of Continental shelf project for the Kingdom of Denmark – Area north of Faroe Islands. He highlighted the progress of the project and also presented some interesting issues to discuss, including the issue of using the agreed maritime boundary with other States in delineating ECS, which sparked productive discussion.
Trine Dahl-Jensen presented another update of continental shelf project in Arctic region by delivering issues of crustal structure from the Lincoln Sea to the Lomonosov Ridge, Arctic Ocean. She raised some technical and non-technical issues faced during conducting surveys in the ice-covered area. An interesting part of the issues is in keeping battery equipment in an ice cooler in order for them to last longer.
A presentation concerning the US efforts to delineate its ECS was delivered by Larry Mayer of the University of New Hampshire. He presented some technical issues and also results of surveys that have been conducted in some locations. He also highlighted that the US has not yet ratified the Convention.
Three other presentation concerning national project of ECS delineations were presented by Shin Tani (Japan), Manuel Abreu (Portugal) and Walter R Roest (France). Shin Tani interestingly presented the current development of Japan’s ECS project with good animations in his presentation. He also asserted that the budget of Japan’s ECS accounts for hundreds of million US dollars. Following his presentation, Manuel took the opportunity to present an overview of the Portuguese continental shelf extension project: Building scientific and technological competence through UNCLOS implementation. This is then followed by a presentation by Walter concerning the status of the French continental shelf program. He explained a program called EXTRAPLAC, meaning Programme français d’extension du plateau continental.
The final session of the symposium concerned CLCS recommendation and commentaries, chaired by Ron Macnab. Alex G. Oude Olferink opened the session by two presentations consecutively. The first presentation concerned the time limit for making submissions to the CLCS – current questions, while the second one was about the consideration of submissions by the CLCS: How much openness? In his first presentation Alex highlighted the changing deadline of submission to the Commission since 2004 and in particular stressed that there is not deadline change in SPLOS/183 but the change in submission requirements. Furthermore, Alex delivered the idea concerning the openness of the recommendation provided by the Commission. This includes the idea of applying a peer-review process to the recommendation by independent parties/experts, for example the academia. The presentation certainly sparked interesting response from the audience.
The next presentation was by Ron Macnab on behalf of Ian Russel. Ron excitingly delivered an issue concerning Entitlement, Evidence, Expertise and Expense – The Quandary facing developing coastal States wishing to implement UNCLOS Article 76. He viewed the issue from a more philosophical perspective. He comprehensively highlighted every possible issue and offered solution or each challenges a coastal State face in delineating its ECS.
The last presentation by Mark Alcock was one of the most interesting presentations in the Symposium. Mark presented the implication of CLCS’s recommendation, particularly in the Australian context. Australia has been awarded an approximately 2.6 Million square km ECS in May 2008. Mark presented the implication of the recommendation to Australia’s future maritime area. Mark also highlighted that Australia still has home works to do since there is pending issues concerning two locations of ECS, which have not yet been recommended by the Commission. Australia is expected make a revision for further process.
The symposium was officially closed by Herald Brekke by delivering a short but yet inspiring speech. If it is not because of Article 76, we would have not seen the advancement in seabed data gathering as we see today, he noted. This single article can be seen as one of the most influential articles in the Convention. He also noted that this symposium is the best so far, especially because it has many presentations concerning national projects.
For my personal notes, I believe that this is one of the best forums I’ve ever attended. The presentations are rich and informative, the issues are current. The last but not least, I managed to meet many prominent experts in the field and made good connection which I believe will be beneficial to me in the not very far future.
Disclaimer: This is not the official report of the symposium and may contain inaccuracies for some reasons. Please consult the author before quoting any information from this article.