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
Chapter 7: Implications of recent Southeast Asian State practice for the international law on offshore joint development
Many of the littoral sea areas surrounding the South China Sea, including the Gulf of Thailand, the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, as well as the Sulawesi/Celebes, Flores and Timor Seas, possess two significant characteristics that lend themselves to the continuing growth of offshore joint development agreements among their coastal States. These two contributory aspects or elements can be conceptualised as geographical and geological in nature. The geographical aspect pertains to issues of proximity. That is, the relatively close physical relationships between the neighbouring countries in these regions, meaning that, in the absence of the delimitation of maritime boundaries between them, their maritime jurisdiction claims inevitably overlap with one another. The geological aspect relates to the potential existence of hydrocarbon resources within the common seabed areas between and adjacent to each of these countries. While the confirmed presence and scale of such seabed energy resources is as yet unclear, pending exploration activities have to date been largely forestalled by overlapping maritime claims. Underpinning these two geophysical factors is the geo-political fact that for the most part, and especially under the auspices of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the littoral States in this wider maritime region are generally friendly neighbours, with the possible exception of their individual bilateral relationships with China on the issue of territorial sovereignty over islands/rocks in the South China Sea and the maritime jurisdiction implications thereof.
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