Yesterday, 15th December, the Government of Greenland and the Government of the Kingdom of Denmark submitted a file regarding the outer limits North of Greenland to the United Nation Commission on the Limit of the Continental Shelf (CLCS). This partial submission is the fifth step* in fulfilling the Kingdom of Denmark's obligation under Article 76(8) and Article 4 of Annex II to the Convention to submit information on the outer limits of its continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles (M) from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured". The area claimed extends toward the Arctic Ocean for ca 895,541 km2 beyond 200 nautical miles from the Northern coast of Greenland, reaching Russian EEZ (see map).
As reported in the official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, "the submission of our claim to the continental shelf north of Greenland is a historic and important milestone for the Kingdom of Denmark. The objective of this huge project is to define the outer limits of our continental shelf and thereby – ultimately – of the Kingdom of Denmark. It has been a process characterized by the very good cooperation not only between authorities within the Kingdom of Denmark but also with our Arctic neighbors. We are looking forward to the constructive meetings with the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) and subsequent bilateral negotiations with neighboring coastal States," says Minister for Foreign Affairs, Martin Lidegaard.
The submitted file on Greenland's northernmost continental shelf is part of a project started in 2002 and called "The Continental Shelf Project of the Kingdom of Denmark", carried out under the auspices of the Royal Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation in close conjunction with the Government of Greenland and the Government of the Faroes. As stated in the partial submission, "the preparation of this Partial Submission began in 2002. Acquisition of seismic and bathymetric data, as well as the processing, analysis and interpretation of data, continued until 2014. Data acquisition in the area north of Greenland is challenging due to the climatic conditions and permanent ice cover. To acquire the necessary data for the documentation of the extended continental shelf in the Arctic, Polar-class icebreakers had to be chartered."
The outer delimitations of Continental Shelf is regulated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of 10 December 1982, which Denmark signed in 1982 but ratified in 2004 (currently 166 States are part of it). Accordingly to UNCLOS, every Coastal State is entitled with 200 nautical miles continental shelf (starting from their coastline) with the possibility to extend the area further if supported by adequate technological and scientific data. Claims over continental shelf areas extending beyond the 200 nautical miles must be submitted to the CLCS for its considerations. Currently, many submissions by several states are awaiting a response, making it difficult to predict when the Danish/Greenlandic claim will be initiated.
The Greenlandic/Danish' s claim clearly overlaps with Norway's, but very likely will also with Canada's, USA's and Russia's. Once received recommendations by the CLCS, the States involved will have to negotiate delimitation bilateral agreements, in accordance with the rules of the international law of the sea as laid down in the Ilulissat Declaration of 2008.
* As reported by partial submission report, "The Government of the Kingdom of Denmark, together with the Government of the Faroes made its first and second partial submissions, regarding the northern and southern continental shelf of the Faroe Islands, on 29 April 2009 and 2 December 2010, respectively. The Government of the Kingdom of Denmark, together with the Government of Greenland made its third and fourth partial submissions, regarding the southern and northeastern continental shelf of Greenland, on 14 June 2012 and 26 November 2013, respectively.
Partial Submission of the Government of the Kingdom of Denmark together with the Government of Greenland to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, "The Northern Continental Shelf of Greenland".