Skip to main content
Joint Development as an Appropriate Legal Response to Overlapping Maritime Claims
Aina Blankson LP Newsletter Series (2012)
  • Kingsley Sawyerr, Mr, University of Dundee
  • Chisom Udechukwu, Miss, University of Aberdeen

There is much ado about the significance of natural resources, particularly hydrocarbons, perceived as vital to States for strategic, economic and environmental reasons. Consequently, inter-State disputes are inevitable where hydrocarbon resources are located in areas without clear boundary delimitations. Disputes can also occur as a result of the possibility of hydrocarbon resources straddling boundary lines due to its fugacious character.

Land boundaries are pretty much easily defined, with each State restricted to its territorial sovereignty. Maritime boundaries on the other hand are not always clearly defined. Although the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries provide some examples of bilateral treaties establishing maritime boundaries, it was after the 1930 Codification Conference in The Hague and the coming into force of the various Laws of the Sea that State practice on the subject became substantial .

The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which supersedes the UNCLOS 1958 regulates the international maritime environment. The UNCLOS gives coastal States rights to maritime zones, which can extend to a distance of 200 nautical miles or more from the baselines. These zones are known to be rich in natural resources. While this extension of jurisdiction has led to an increase in offshore hydrocarbon activities, it has created the problem of overlapping maritime boundaries resulting from the proximity of some coastal States to each other .

The most prominent boundary disputes include the dispute in the East China involving China, Japan and Taiwan; in the South China concerning the Spratly Islands claimed by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines. There are also maritime disputes in the Gulf of Guinea and in the Middle American and Caribbean regions. Cooperation on maritime issues by States is therefore very important in contributing to the maintenance of peace, security and economic well-being for all the nations of the world.

This article aims to show the legal responses to maritime boundary disputes: negotiation and other adversarial dispute resolution processes. The Nigeria-Cameroon case study is utilized, as well as Nigeria – Sao Tome & Principe joint development. Conclusion is further drawn advocating the concept of Joint Development Agreements (JDA), an innovative and viable option in managing boundary disputes where natural resources are involved.

  • Joint Development,
  • Legal Response,
  • Overlapping Maritime Claims
Publication Date
Summer August 1, 2012
Publisher Statement
Kingsley Sawyerr’s practice is centered on Oil and Gas as well as Power & Energy transactions. With a Masters in Petroleum and Energy Law from the University of Dundee, United Kingdom, he has developed a knack on commercial and transactional structuring whilst advising, negotiating and rendering opinions on several projects and Agreements regarding Government investments, Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) and institutional investments. Chisom Udechukwu is currently engaged in the Corporate and Commercial Group of Aina Blankson LP, as well as the Power and Energy Group of the firm. She holds an LLB from Igbinedion University, Edo State, Nigeria and a Masters in Oil and Gas Law from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom. She is an assiduous, highly ambitious and astute lawyer endowed with a brilliant mind and unique flexibility. Career interests include Energy and Power, International Tax Law as well as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).
Citation Information
Kingsley Sawyerr and Chisom Udechukwu. "Joint Development as an Appropriate Legal Response to Overlapping Maritime Claims" Aina Blankson LP Newsletter Series (2012)
Available at: