ICJ Fixes maritime boundary in Black Sea Case 03 Feb 2009
The ICJ delivered its judgment in the case between Romania and Ukraine concerning the delimitation of the continental shelf and the exclusive economic zones in the Black Sea.

The International Court of Justice delivered its Judgment in the Romania v. Ukraine case on 3 February 2009On 3 February 2009 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivered its Judgment in the case of Maritime Delimitation in the Black Sea (Romania v. Ukraine). In a unanimous decision, the Court established a delimitation line establishing the maritime boundary between the two states. The Judgment was the one hundredth delivered since the Court’s creation in 1946.

Rather than accepting the submissions of any one party, the Court established a delimitation line by applying methodology based on international law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and its own jurisprudence. The Court began by drawing a provisional equidistance line between the two coasts of Romania and Ukraine; it then considered whether there were any factors calling for the adjustment of the provisional line, such as whether the delimitation is ‘equitable’ (Articles 74 and 83 of UNCLOS).

Romania filed its application against Ukraine on 16 September 2004, following a long-standing dispute over the establishment of a maritime boundary between the two states. The case is important since oil and gas were discovered in the region under dispute, and each state has entered into agreements with multinational companies over the potentially lucrative reserves. Romania claimed that negotiations between the States, which sought to delimit the continental shelf and the consequent exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of each State, had failed to reach an agreement acceptable to both Parties. One of the main issues in contention was whether an area known as Serpent’s Island would affect the relevant coastline boundary, depending on whether it was classified as a ‘rock’ or an ‘island’. On this point, the Court held that the presence of Serpents’ Island does not call for an adjustment of the provisional equidistance line, given the geographical configuration of the areas subject to delimitation in this case.
 
“Good-Neighbourliness”

In 1948, the Soviet Union forced the transfer of Serpents’ Island to the USSR, but after the break up of the Soviet Union, the island was claimed by Ukraine. With the island still in dispute, Romania and Ukraine signed a Treaty on Relations of Co-operation and Good-Neighbourliness in 1997 along with an Additional Agreement committing each State to finding an agreement on the matter. Romania filed its case under Article 4 (h) of this Agreement, providing inter alia that the dispute be brought before the ICJ at the request of either Party if unresolved within a reasonable period of time. Public hearings in the case were concluded on 19 September 2008.

Press Release

Maritime Delimitation in the Black Sea

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

Click here for a map showing the Court’s delimitation

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