Beyond Territorial Disputes in the South China Sea

Beyond Territorial Disputes in the South China Sea

Legal Frameworks for the Joint Development of Hydrocarbon Resources

NUS Centre for International Law series

Edited by Robert Beckman, Ian Townsend-Gault, Clive Schofield, Tara Davenport and Leonardo Bernard

This highly informative and up-to-date book brings together expert scholars in law of the sea to explore the legal and geopolitical aspects of the South China Sea disputes and provide an in-depth examination on the prospects of joint development in the South China Sea.

Chapter 4: Rationales for zones of co-operation

Ian Townsend-Gault

Subjects: asian studies, asian law, law - academic, asian law, maritime law, public international law


A maritime ‘zone of co-operation’ is the omnibus term used to describe an area, created by two or more States according to an infinite number of criteria or considerations, within which the usual rules of unilateral jurisdiction relating to the exercise of rights and the discharge of obligations over ocean activities are replaced by a regime where these rights and responsibilities are exercised jointly in some way. The zone of co-operation designed to facilitate natural resource exploration and exploitation is therefore as much a part of the legal and policy regime as a petroleum law or fisheries law, and recognition of this often forgotten reality should never be overlooked. There are multiple and various examples of zones of co-operation, but the outstanding example of the zone of co-operation that governs offshore petroleum joint development is the focus of the present volume. Nonetheless, just as joint development can take many forms, contemporary state practice continues to evolve different examples of zonal co-operation. The zone within which the special regime applies is usually constituted by the area where the claims to maritime jurisdiction made by the parties overlap with one another. That said, co-operation zones need not be ‘created’ by States through their conflicting maritime jurisdictional claims but may instead be dictated by the presence of marine features such as enclosed and semi-enclosed seas, large marine ecosystems and the like: zones which are the product of the natural world, not human choice, activity or, indeed, discord.

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