KARACHI - The United Nations’ Commission on Limits of Continental Shelf (UNCLCS) completed its review and accepted Pakistan’s claim for extension of its continental shelf limits, extending its sea limits from 200 nautical miles to 350 nautical miles. This adds over 50,000 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. It is a proud moment for the entire nation as Pakistan has become the first country in the region to achieve this remarkable feat.

Article 76 of the UN Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) allows coastal states to extend their continental shelf beyond 200NM. However, a coastal state is required to prove its case through technical data to the UN Commission on Limits of Continental Shelf (CLCS); a body of 21 experts in geology, geophysics, hydrography and other related disciplines. Pakistan also has the honour of representation in this august body. Commodore M Arshad SI (M), hydrographer of Pakistan Navy, is a member of the Commission.

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

During this process, a technical delegation from Pakistan; comprising Commodore Zafar Mansoor Tipu SI (M), Judge Advocate General of Pakistan Navy, Dr Asif Inam, the Project Director and Director General National Institute of Oceanography, Commander Salman Ahmed Khan, Pakistan Navy Hydrographic Department, Mohsin Tabrez and Khalid Mehmood of National Institute of Oceanography, undertook this important task and held multiple interactions with the sub-commission. At the final stage, Pakistan’s delegation, headed by Dr Maliha Lodhi, permanent representative of Pakistan to UN, gave the final presentation on March 10, 2015. After extensive deliberations, the UNCLCS announced the adoption of Pakistan’s claim. Active pursuance and prompt responses of Pakistan’s delegation helped in culminating the whole process successfully in a relatively short timeframe.

The accomplishment of this historic milestone which augurs well for economic wellbeing 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 utilise all our resources to exploit the vast economic potential of our maritime zones for the benefit of our nation.

Our staff reporter adds from Islamabad: Pakistan on Friday welcomed the approval of its demand by the United Nations to extend its continental shelf or seawater limits.

“As a consequence of this landmark development, Pakistan has been granted an additional area of approximately 50,000 square kilometers,” Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said.

He said Pakistan would have exclusive rights for exploitation and exploration of resources at and beneath the seabed in this area in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“This development will boost our efforts aimed at sustainable socio-economic uplift of the people of Pakistan,” Aziz said in a statement. He thanked the international community, especially Oman, for its understanding and cooperation in the matter.