Natural prolongation principle

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The natural prolongation principle or principle of natural prolongation is a legal concept introduced in maritime claims submitted to the United Nations.

Ocean A body of water that composes much of a planets hydrosphere

An ocean is a body of water that composes much of a planet's hydrosphere. On Earth, an ocean is one of the major conventional divisions of the World Ocean. These are, in descending order by area, the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Southern (Antarctic), and Arctic Oceans. The word "ocean" is often used interchangeably with "sea" in American English. Strictly speaking, a sea is a body of water partly or fully enclosed by land, though "the sea" refers also to the oceans.

United Nations Intergovernmental organization

The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization that was tasked to maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international co-operation and be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations. The headquarters of the UN is in Manhattan, New York City, and is subject to extraterritoriality. Further main offices are situated in Geneva, Nairobi, Vienna and The Hague. The organization is financed by assessed and voluntary contributions from its member states. Its objectives include maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development and upholding international law. The UN is the largest, most familiar, most internationally represented and most powerful intergovernmental organization in the world. In 24 October 1945, at the end of World War II, the organization was established with the aim of preventing future wars. At its founding, the UN had 51 member states; there are now 193. The UN is the successor of the ineffective League of Nations.


The phrase denotes a concept of political geography and international law that a nation's maritime boundary should reflect the 'natural prolongation' of where its land territory reaches the coast.

Political geography is concerned with the study of both the spatially uneven outcomes of political processes and the ways in which political processes are themselves affected by spatial structures. Conventionally, for the purposes of analysis, political geography adopts a three-scale structure with the study of the state at the centre, the study of international relations above it, and the study of localities below it. The primary concerns of the subdiscipline can be summarized as the inter-relationships between people, state, and territory.

International law regulations governing international relations

International law, also known as public international law or law of nations, is the set of rules, norms, and standards generally regarded and accepted in relations between nations. It establishes normative guidelines and a common conceptual framework for states to follow across a broad range of domains, including war, diplomacy, human rights, commerce, and environmental preservation. International law thus provides a mean for states to practice more stable, consistent, and organized international relations.

Maritime boundary boundary between marine zones over which countries have rights, or between such zones and international waters

A maritime boundary is a conceptual division of the Earth's water surface areas using physiographic or geopolitical criteria. As such, it usually bounds areas of exclusive national rights over mineral and biological resources, encompassing maritime features, limits and zones. Generally, a maritime boundary is delineated at a particular distance from a jurisdiction's coastline. Although in some countries the term maritime boundary represents borders of a maritime nation that are recognized by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, maritime borders usually serve to identify the edge of international waters.

Oceanographic descriptions of the land mass under coastal waters became conflated and confused with criteria that are deemed relevant in border delimitation. [1] The concept was developed in the process of settling disputes if the borders of adjacent nations were located on a contiguous continental shelf.

Conflation undesirable merger of identities

Conflation is the merging of two or more sets of information, texts, ideas, opinions, etc., into one, often in error.

Borders are geographic boundaries of political entities or legal jurisdictions, such as governments, sovereign states, federated states, and other subnational entities. Borders are established through agreements between political or social entities that control those areas; the creation of these agreements is called boundary delimitation.

An unresolved issue is whether a natural prolongation defined scientifically, without reference to equitable principles, is to be construed as a "natural prolongation" for the purpose of maritime border delimitation or maritime boundary disputes. [2]


The phrase natural prolongation was established as a concept in the North Sea Continental Cases [3] in 1969. [4]

The relevance and importance of natural prolongation as a factor in delimitation disputes and agreements has declined during the period in which international acceptance of UNCLOS III has expanded. [5]

The Malta/Libya Case [6] in 1985 is marked as the eventual demise of the natural prolongation principle being used in delimiting between adjoining national maritime boundaries. [7]

See also

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  1. Highet, Keith. (1989). "Whatever became of natural prolongation," in Rights to Oceanic Resources: Deciding and Drawing Maritime Boundaries, (Dorinda G. Dallmeyer et al., editors), pp. 87–100. , p. 87, at Google Books
  2. Capaldo, Giuliana Ziccardi. (1995). Répertoire de la jurisprudence de la cour internationale de justice (1947–1992). p. 409. , p. 409, at Google Books.
  3. North Sea Continental Shelf Cases (Federal Republic of Germany v Denmark; Federal Republic of Germany v Netherlands) [1969] ICJ Reports 4 at 42.
  4. Highet, pp. 89–90. , p. 89, at Google Books
  5. Kaye, Stuart B. (1995). Australia's maritime boundaries, pp. 12, 172.
  6. Case Concerning the Continental Shelf (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya v Malta) (Judgment) [1985] ICJ Reports 13 at 29
  7. Highet, pp. 91–95. , p. 91, at Google Books