Islamabad- The United Nations’ Commission on Limits of Continental Shelf (UN-CLCS) accepted Pakistan’s claim for extension of its continental shelf limits (sea limits) from 200 nautical miles to 350 nautical miles.

This adds over 50,000 square kilometer (sq-km) of continental shelf to the existing 240,000 sq km of EEZ, under Pakistan’s jurisdiction. Pakistan will have exclusive rights over the seabed and subsoil resources of the added area. This is a landmark achievement and a momentous event in the country’s history, which would bring vast economic benefits through exploitation of extensive natural resources present there.

Article 76 of the UN Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) allows coastal states to extend their Continental Shelf beyond 200 NM.  However, a coastal state is required to prove its case through technical data to the UN-CLCS, a body of 21 experts in Geology, Geophysics, Hydrography and other related disciplines. Pakistan also has the representation in the body.

The project to extend Pakistan's continental shelf was started in 2005, jointly by Pakistan Navy and National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) with Ministry of Science & Technology as the sponsor Ministry.

After four years of dedicated work and collection and processing of voluminous technical data, a comprehensive submission was made to the UN-CLCS on 30 April 2009.  On Pakistan’s turn, a seven-member sub-commission of the UN-CLCS undertook in-depth analysis/review of Pakistan’s submission and after over a yearlong thorough scrutiny and analysis, the UN CLCS adopted recommendations for extension of Pakistan's continental shelf from 200 to 350 NM.

During this process, a technical delegation from Pakistan undertook this important task and held multiple interactions with the sub-commission.  At the final stage, Pakistan’s delegation, headed by Dr Maliha Lodhi, the permanent representative of Pakistan to the UN, gave the final presentation on 10 March 2015. After extensive deliberation, the UN-CLCS has now announced the adoption of Pakistan’s claim.

The accomplishment of this historic milestone, which augurs well for economic well being of the future generations, is outcome of seamless coordination and cooperation between various ministries and departments as well as sustained government support throughout a decade long effort.

 It is by all means a great national achievement with rich dividends for the nation in future.  All those associated with the project deserve commendation. The nation is rightly proud of this achievement. We must now utilize all our resources to exploit the vast economic potential of our maritime zones for the benefit of our nation.