PAKISTAN’S CONTINENTAL SHELF EXTENSION PROGRAMME
Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) the continental shelf is that part of the seabed over which a coastal State exercises sovereign rights with regard to the exploration and exploitation of natural resources including oil and gas deposits as well as other minerals and biological resources of the seabed. The legal continental shelf extends out to a distance of 200 nautical miles from its coast, or further if the shelf naturally extends beyond that limit.
Where the continental shelf extends beyond 200 nautical miles a State is required by UNCLOS (Article 76) to make a submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS). This submission sets out the coordinates of the outer limits of the shelf and is accompanied by technical and scientific data to support the claim. The Commission assesses the limits and data submitted by the coastal State and makes recommendations. The outer limits of the continental shelf established by a coastal State based on these recommendations are final and binding.
Submissions for an extended Continental Shelf were required to be filed directly with the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) with detailed marine geo-scientific data describing e. g. the shape of the continental margin, the location of the foot of the continental slope and the sediment thickness. Within the extended zone, a state has among other things the exclusive right of exploring and exploiting non-living-resources of the seabed and subsoil as well as sedentary species, whereas fishing rights remain limited to the EEZ.
Pakistan ratified the Convention on 26 February 1997. The Convention entered into force for Pakistan on 28 March 1997. Under the UNCLOS Pakistan has an Exclusive Economic Zone extending up to 200 nautical miles and covering an area of 240,000 sq km. Government of Pakistan entrusted the responsibility of this national Project to the National Institute of Oceanography, Pakistan under the administrative control of Ministry of Science & Technology. The Government of Pakistan also formulated an Inter-Ministerial “Technical Evaluation Committee” (with representatives from Ministry of Science & Technology, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights) for monitoring and supervising the Pakistan Continental Shelf Programme. The Continental Shelf Extension Cell (comprising of scientists of National Institute of Oceanography and hydrographers of Pakistan Navy) was established at National Institute of Oceanography for undertaking requisite scientific data collection, compilation and preparation of submission along with foreign consultants.
The Continental shelf project activities till Submission underwent typical 3 phases: Desktop Study, Data Collection and Preparation of Submission. Scientists from National Institute of Oceanography and Hydrographers from Pakistan Navy Hydrographic Department worked dedicatedly in all phases. This led to the preparation of a comprehensive and high quality Submission. Which met all the requirements of the Commission. In order to ensure that data collection and preparation of Submission is of desired standards as set forth by the Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf, consultation from international experts was also included in all 3 phases.
In the first phase a desk top study was carried out to synthesize available data and identify the requirements of additional data. Extensive surveys for collection of variety of data were undertaken in second phase. To facilitate the construction of Outer Limits of continental shelf, Baseline Geodetic survey of the entire length 990 km long Coastline was carried out. To map the seabed topography and also to identify Base of the Slope area and to locate Foot of the Slope more than 11000 kms of high quality Multibeam Bathymetric data was collected over the Murray Ridge and Indus Fan. High Resolution Acoustic Profiling was also done during the Multibeam survey.
Since Pakistan was blessed with huge pile of Indus River derived sediments deposited over the seafloor therefore to measure sediment thicknesses and demonstrate its continuity more than 4000 kms of industry standard 2D Multi-Channel Seismic survey was undertaken. Submission of the Outer Limits of Pakistan Continental Shelf was prepared in Phase III. A Canadian firm provided technical assistance, which was supplemented by a legal review undertaken by the Marine and Environmental Law Institute, Dalhousie University, Canada.
After completing the entire requirements as per the Technical and Scientific Guidelines of the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf the submission document along with all charts, maps and digital data was delivered by NIO to Pakistan’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York on 26th March 2009. Later, on the instruction of the Ministry of Science & Technology the Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the United Nation submitted Pakistan’s Case for the extension of its Continental Shelf to the United Nations on 30th April 2009.
A five member Pakistan delegation led by the Federal Secretary for Ministry of Science & Technology gave a presentation to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) on 16 August 2013 at United Nations, New York. The Chairman Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, on 26 August 2013, officially informed the Pakistan Mission at the United Nations that a seven member subcommission has been established to review Pakistan’s submission. The Subcommission undertook critical review of Pakistan Submission and detailed analysis of the data submitted by Pakistan. During this process 18 documents were exchanged between Subcommission and Pakistan delegation. In conclusion of the year long process, draft recommendations prepared by Subcommission were agreed to by Pakistan delegation and unanimously finalized by the Subcommission.
On 10 March 2015, Pakistan Delegation made a final presentation to the 21 member Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. The presentation was greatly appreciated by the Commission. At the end of the 37th Session, the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf formally adopted the Recommendation and accepted Pakistan’s Case for the extension of its Continental Shelf from 200 nautical miles to the maximum 350 nautical miles. The total maritime area gained by Pakistan is more than 50,000 sq km.
Five Members Technical Team
Dr. Asif Inam, Director General, Project Director,
National Institute of Oceanography
Mr. Mohsin Tabrez,
GIS Analyst NIO
Mr.Khalid Mehmood Awan,
Cdre Z.M. Tipu TI (M)
Judge Advocate General of Pakistan Navy
Cdr Salman Ahmed Khan
Deputy Hydrographer Pakistan Navy