23 August 2012
Commonwealth instrumental in facilitating collaboration of continental shelf oversight
Seychelles and Mauritius have established a commission to manage the world’s largest offshore joint management zone measuring 400,000 square kilometers of continental shelf.
This will enable both countries to jointly regulate seabed activities, including the exploration of petroleum and minerals, as well as the conservation and management of the living resources of the seabed.
Officials from both countries met in Mahé, Seychelles, from 20 to 22 August to launch the commission and discuss the future management and regulation of activities in the joint zone.
Seychelles Minister for Land Use and Habitat Christian Lionnet said the new commission “has the great advantage of enabling the two countries to immediately benefit from the exploration, exploitation and conservation of the natural resources of the area".
Mauritius Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Civil Service Suresh Seeballuck noted that “a new era of co-operation, trust and mutual understanding between the two countries has emerged".
The Commonwealth Secretariat has been instrumental in facilitating the collaboration between Seychelles and Mauritius following its assistance to both countries in their successful joint claim to the continental shelf before the United Nations, and the drafting of a treaty to govern the management of the area which entered into force in July.
“This is the first area of continental shelf extending beyond the exclusive economic zone to be jointly managed anywhere in the world, and the largest as well,” said Joshua Brien, Legal Adviser on Natural Resources at the Secretariat’s Special Advisory Services Division, who leads the maritime boundary programme.
“There will be many challenges for both countries to effectively manage the area, and we are committed to positioning them to successfully do so. Our goal is to ensure that the two countries co-operate on the sustainable management of the joint zone, and that international best practices are applied in all respects, ranging from initial exploration and conservation, through to the collection and management of revenue generated from the development of natural resources in the joint zone,” he added.
As part of a comprehensive package of legal and technical assistance, the Secretariat will commission a seabed resource assessment of the joint management zone, which will assist the Seychelles and Mauritius to identify areas for exploration while safeguarding sensitive areas of conservation. The Secretariat is also preparing a joint taxation code, offshore resource codes, and a series of model contracts for use in negotiations between the commission and international oil companies and resource investors seeking to engage in the exploration of the joint management zone.