• Toby Irwin

Falkland Maritime Claims

Argentine claims to the Falklands, though seemingly firmly settled with the British victory in 1982, continue to this day. Not only founded on historical and geographic claims, Buenos Aires is aware of the availability of natural resources available on the islands. It is not uncommon for territory disputes to extend into the maritime domain, and the reasoning behind this is founded in international law.

According to the third UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982), states not only have sovereignty over the first 12 nautical miles extending from their land boundaries, but also a further 200 nautical miles that fall under their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Since the Falklands are the legal territory of the United Kingdom, then London finds itself in a favourable yet peculiar position to exploit the available natural resources in the Falkland's EEZ. Naturally, since Argentina disputes the sovereign ownership of the islands themselves, then by extension there is a dispute as to the ownership of the Falkland's EEZ.

Disputed EEZ Area

Article 56 of the UNCLOS notes the exclusive commercial rights made available to the coastal state owning the waters:

"1. In the exclusive economic zone, the coastal State has:

(a) sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, of the waters superjacent to the seabed and of the seabed and its subsoil, and with regard to other activities for the economic exploitation and exploration of the zone, such as the production of energy from the water, currents and winds"

Analysis from the BBC a few years ago displayed the available (estimated) oil reserves in these seas. In 2010 Argentina submitted a proposal for ownership of Falkland EEZ, and passed a domestic law making it official within their own parliament. However, internationally the waters are still recognised as British.

Source: BBC News

Two pockets of oil exist within the EEZ. The North Basin ahs oil at a depth of around 2000-3500m below the sea floor. The sea floor itself is 450m deep. Around 325 million barrels of oil are said to be available. The South and East Basins are larger though less accessible. The sea floor varies between 1000 and 1500m deep, and the oil reserves a further 2000-3500m below that. These fields hold an estimated 5 billion barrels. The North basin is 200 kilometres away from the islands and the South/East basins are 321 kilometres away. In nautical miles this puts them 107 and 173 away from the islands, and thus within the EEZ.

Large distances from the UK to the islands may prove a problem though, especially with a large amou8nt of North Sea reserves being untapped. Further, with crumbling oil prices and a monopoly being operated by the Middle East and Russia there appears little international market opportunities to justify extensive investment. This is exacerbated by continued national efforts to transition away from the use of finite natural resources for energy production.





At the time of writing, Toby Irwin is a third year student at the University of St Andrews. He is studying International Relations. Areas that interest him the most are UK foreign policy and the defence/aerospace industry.

The student project covering international relations and foreign affairs


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