Re: Creating new states

Date: Sun Jan 16 2000 - 11:06:59 MST

In a message dated 1/15/00 9:39:15 AM Central Standard Time, writes:

> > > The Gulf is a nice place to put
> > > an island.)
> >
> > ... commented on the problems of building within Exclusive Economic
> Ok, Greg, I'll bite on this one. Is there an instance of an oil platform
> in the world that is not within an EEZ?

I don't know if there's a PLATFORM outside of any country's EEZ (I doubt it,
since the continental shelf is by and large within 200 miles of a coastline),
but there IS drilling activity in "true" international waters - it's just
done on floating structures (semi-submersible rigs and drillships - which,
BTW, is wickedly cool technology).

Some clarifying points: Under UNCLOS, the "territorial sea" extends to 12
miles beyond the coastline. The contiguous coastal state has true
sovereignty in all aspects of that area (in, on, under, etc. the water,
airspace and seafloor). The coastal state may regulate all aspects of
transit through or other operation within the territorial sea.

The EEZ extends from 12 to 200 miles offshore. The WATERS of the EEZ are
"international", but the coastal state has the exclusive right 1) to reap the
economic benefits from those waters and the underlying seafloor and 2) to
regulate certain activity within the EEZ (such as scientific or
resource-exploratory activity), but NOT to exclude "innocent passage" through
the EEZ (thus, the famous Lybian/US "Line of Death" confrontation in the Gulf
of Sidra in the early 1980s - which also concerned the arcana of defining
when a Gulf is so enclosed by the land of the coastal state as to become
territorial waters - a bit of nit-picking that also bears on such bodies as
the Gulf of California).

> If so, who owns it, what legal
> jurisdiction does it fall under and were the corporations clever enough
> to create some offshore subsidiary as the owner to shelter any income
> it might generate?

UNCLOS defines a FIXED "artificial" platform in the EEZ as being "territory"
of the coastal state (although not for purposes of defining coastline - only
"natural" islands do that). A fixed platform is not "flagged" for purposes
of application of law, but rather is considered native territory. Vessels
and movable, "unfixed" structures are subject to "flag" law. Thus, for
instance, a US-flagged semi-submersible operating in Mexico's EEZ is subject
to US 'flag" law regarding non-economic activity aboard the vessel, but its
economic activity of extracting hydrocarbons is (or may permissibly be)
subject to Mexican law to the limits allowed under UNCLOS.
> > I believe that slice is in pretty deep water ...
> So what? With bio/nanotech you are better off building a floating
> island anyway. This of course segues into a fundamental question of
> when does the oil platform you are towing around become an "independent"
> land mass? Do you simply have to tie it down to the bottom or do you
> need to convert some large fraction of the material below it into coral?

Yow! You're asking some tough questions. Much of the jurisdictional and
"choice-of-law" jurisprudence of admiralty law turns on whether the subject
is a "vessel" or not. As far as I know, things are considered either
"vessels" or "platforms"; I know of no case where a court couldn't make the
determination eventually. To the untrained eye, a drillship is clearly a
vessel (it has a pointy end and a round end) and a fixed platform is clearly
that (stout legs that extend down to the seafloor and are more or less
permanently attached to the bottom and the structure at the top). "Jack-up"
rigs and semi-submersibles may look like hard questions to laymen, but in
fact the principles of admiralty law lead to rational and logical answers
fairly quickly. Both are considered vessels (even though they may not have
their own motive power - although they almost always have really cool
swiveling positional thrusters).

A "grown" island that is held in position like a semi-submersible (i.e. with
anchor lines held taught by counter-buoyancy) will be a TOUGH question.
While the physics are the same as a semi's, the INTENT is clearly to leave
the structure in place indefinitely (which is definitely NOT the case with
semis - one of the determining factors in the cases which decided their
"vessel" status). I could certainly make arguments on both sides of the
question. Perhaps we shouldn't say more in a public forum until we figure
out which characterization best suits our needs :-)

> I guess this is related to the question of -- if a volcanic island
> arises in international waters -- who gets to own/claim it?

I'm not sure, but I think this hasn't come up in modern times. I recall a
new piece of territory arising in the North Atlantic (near Iceland?) within
the last 30 years . . . but I think it may have been within a coastal state's
territorial sea - not even pressing the EEZ line (and also before the
adoption of UNCLOS - which was an era of governed primarily by international
customary law insofar as such questions were concerned)
> We need to get started now on slipping into some UN treaty some
> wording that "islands" grown in international waters are recognized
> as independent nation-states when the following criteria are met ...

Having researched the history of UNCLOS' drafting and adoption in
excruciating detail many years ago (and having gotten to know one of it's
primary draftsman), all I can say to this suggestion is "good luck"! The
process makes the typical NATIONAL legislative process look swift, efficient
and transparent . . .

      Greg Burch <>----<>
      Attorney ::: Vice President, Extropy Institute ::: Wilderness Guide -or-
                                           ICQ # 61112550
        "We never stop investigating. We are never satisfied that we know
        enough to get by. Every question we answer leads on to another
       question. This has become the greatest survival trick of our species."
                                                -- Desmond Morris

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