“Enlarging” or “extending” the continental shelf are simplified descriptions of a complex process that consists of defining the outer limits of the continental shelf where it is located beyond 200 nautical miles. Fixing the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles follows rules set out in Article 76 of the Convention and it is within this context that the concept of the Continental Shelf of Portugal, the limits of which are indicated on the map “Portugal is Sea”, should be understood.
The concept of the continental shelf provided for under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is a legal concept (see answer to question No. 1)
No, it applies only to the continental shelf (see answer to question No. 6)
No, it is not possible to enlarge or extend the EEZ beyond 200 nautical miles. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea provides that the EEZ may extend only up to 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the Territorial Sea is measured. The EEZ is different from the continental shelf both in terms of the applicable limits and the applicable procedures.
We gain sovereign rights over the continental shelf for the purpose of exploring and exploiting its natural resources, i.e. mineral resources and living organisms that exist on the seabed and in the subsoil.
The Exclusive Economic Zone is an area located beyond the territorial sea, the breadth of which may be up to 200 nautical miles. The EEZ comprises the water column and the seabed (soil and subsoil of submarine areas). The Continental Shelf comprises only the soil and subsoil (and not the water column) throughout the natural prolongation of its land territory to the outer edge of the continental margin.
No, sovereign rights over the continental shelf do not include the water column. On the continental shelf, the coastal State has exclusive rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting living organisms belonging to sedentary species that exist on the seabed and/or seabed subsoil, as these are under its sovereignty.
There are living and non-living resources. Living resources are the organisms that are in permanent physical contact with the seabed and/or seabed subsoil, such as sponges and corals. Non-living resources relate, for example, to mineral resources rich in gold, manganese, cobalt, titanium, rare earth elements, tellurium, platinum-group metals, nickel, copper, zinc and cobalt.
As of march 2017, 77 proposals for extension of the continental shelf had been presented.
It is unlikely. The occurrence of oil in deep offshore areas is typically located relatively close to the geological continental margins. As our geological continental shelf is relatively narrow, any oil in deep offshore areas will probably be discovered in the Exclusive Economic Zone.
There is no sovereignty over the water column overlying the continental shelf of States in areas where it is located beyond 200 nautical miles. In these cases, freedom of the High Seas shall apply, i.e. its use is open to all States (as provided for under Article 87 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea).
Portugal will not exercise those rights until the completion of proceedings before the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and the filing of the statute defining those limits with the Secretary General of the United Nations. Despite the fact that the Convention does not prohibit the exploitation of resources on the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles while the proceedings are running their course, nor does any other international instrument, it happens that, due to the particular characteristics of rights over the continental shelf, Portugal is already exercising its respective sovereign rights. In 2006, Portugal created the first national Marine Protected Area located beyond 200 nautical miles, the Rainbow Hydrothermal Field, nominating it for the OSPAR Network of Marine Protected Areas (MPA).
Sovereign rights over the resources on the continental shelf are exclusive and depend on effective or notional occupation, or on any express proclamation, as set out under Articles 77 and 81 of the Convention. They are exclusive because, if the coastal State does not explore the continental shelf or exploit its natural resources, no one may undertake such activities without the explicit consent of that State.
The entire maritime territory under the sovereignty of a State belongs to that State.
No, the territory shown on the map corresponds to the proposal for the extension of the continental shelf. The final boundaries will be approved and published by Portugal, after publication of the recommendations by the United Nations (Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf).
After submission, on May 11, 2009, Portugal became part of the "waiting list", and in March 2017 the subcommittee (taken from the members of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf CLCS), which shall directly consider our proposal. The beginning of the evaluation of the Portuguese proposal will take place in August 2017 and is expected to be evaluated in the next two years.
The process has the following stages:
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Projeto de Extensão
Kit do Mar
Telephone: +351 213 004 165
Fax: +351 213 905 225
Information on the Continental Shelf Extension Project:Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Address:Rua Costa Pinto, N.º 1652770-047 Paço de Arcos - Portugal