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Government gazettes Maritime Regulations to delimit internal waters

by Zena Henry

The Guyanese government on Thursday announced that steps have been taken to demarcate the  country’s jurisdictional zone in keeping with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Though not directly related, the decision comes weeks after Venezuela issued two decrees unilaterally including the Atlantic waters off  the Essequibo in its integral maritime defence zone, Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge told the National Assembly at its fifth sitting, Thursday July 30, that the international law was enacted on July 23, 2015.

The nation’s Spanish-speaking neighbour has issued a decree claiming some 2/3 of the western part of the country.  Greenidge noted that according to the international law, Guyanese sovereignty is beyond land property, seabed, subsoil and air space over the internal waters.

“Guyana has exclusive jurisdiction over its internal waters. Such authority encompasses access to, and control of all resources as well as full jurisdiction over all activities by both nationals and foreigners and for all including enforcement of its national laws and protection of the environment, unless restricted by international law.”

He said Section 9 of the Act gives him, as Foreign Affairs Minister, “the power to prescribe by regulations closing lines to delimit our internal waters and it is in this regard that the Maritime zones internal waters and river closing baseline regulations 2015 were enacted on July 23 2015.”

The regulation prescribes the closing lines across the mouths of the three largest navigable rivers of Guyana; the Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice Rivers. The regulation has been already published in the Official Gazette.

“Baselines constitute a fundamental aspect of the regime of zones of jurisdiction established by UNCLOS, since the breadth of the maritime zones under national jurisdiction is to be measured from the baselines. The baseline is also the line which establishes the outer limit of the internal waters in which the State exercises its full sovereignty,” it was noted.

“It therefore means that the proper implementation of the baseline provisions of the Convention by coastal States through, inter alia, their national legislation, will play an important role in the achievement of an adequate balance between the maritime interests of coastal States and those of the international community.”

By virtue of Articles 9 and 16 of the Convention, the Minister said Guyana is obligated to properly delimit its internal waters. UNCLOS Convention came into being in the late 1950s.