Stuart Kaye

Document Type



The Chamber of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivered its judgment on the location of the maritime boundary between Canada and the United States in the Gulf of Maine, on October 12, 1984. Less than two years before, after many years consideration, and an almost complete failure of consensus during the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III), the international community adopted the text of Articles 74 and 83 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. These two almost identically-worded articles provided the formula for delimiting the maritime boundaries between States’ exclusive economic zones (EEZ) and continental shelves. They provide, in part, as follows: The delimitation of the exclusive economic zone/continental shelf between States with opposite or adjacent coasts shall be effected by agreement on the basis of international law, as referred to in Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice, in order to achieve an equitable solution. The lack of any objective criteria, or indeed any indicators of utility to those facing a maritime boundary delimitation, reflects the lack of consensus that existed up until the adoption of these articles at the very end of the negotiation process. It also provided a unique opportunity to the ICJ and other international tribunals to frame the construction of a significant area of international law, largely without State interference. It is difficult to think of another area of international law since World War II where international adjudication has had such a clear field in which to operate. The Delimitation of Maritime Boundary in Gulf of Maine Area (Gulf of Maine Case) was the first international maritime boundary case to be decided after the adoption of the Law of the Sea Convention. From the handing down of that first major international maritime boundary delimitation case post-UNCLOS III, over a dozen cases have considered principles to apply to maritime delimitation. This Article will consider the principles that have emerged from those cases, examine to what extent international courts and tribunals have acted effectively upon their opportunity to define this area of law, and explore the impact of the Gulf of Maine Case on the development of that jurisprudence.



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