Oceans and Law of the Sea

Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS)
Purpose, functions and sessions

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Purpose of the Commission

    The purpose of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (the Commission or CLCS) is to facilitate the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (the Convention) in respect of the establishment of the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles (M) from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured. Under the Convention, the coastal State shall establish the outer limits of its continental shelf where it extends beyond 200 M on the basis of the recommendation of the Commission. The Commission shall make recommendations to coastal States on matters related to the establishment of those limits; its recommendations and actions shall not prejudice matters relating to the delimitation of boundaries between States with opposite or adjacent coasts.

Functions of the Commission

    Annex II to the Convention contains the provisions governing the Commission. As set forth in article 3 of Annex II, the functions of the Commission are:

(a) To consider the data and other material submitted by coastal States concerning the outer limits of the continental shelf in areas where those limits extend beyond 200 nautical miles, and to make recommendations in accordance with article 76 and the Statement of Understanding adopted on 29 August 1980 by the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea;

(b) To provide scientific and technical advice, if requested by the coastal State concerned during preparation of such data.

    In accordance with article 76(8), the Commission shall make recommendations to coastal States on matters related to the establishment of the outer limits of their continental shelf. The limits of the shelf established by a coastal State on the basis of these recommendations shall be final and binding.

Sessions of the Commission

    The Commission ordinarily meets twice a year, in the spring and fall, at United Nations Headquarters in New York. The convening of these sessions and services to be provided are subject to approval by the General Assembly of the United Nations in its annual resolutions on oceans and the law of the sea.

   The meetings of the Commission, its subcommissions and subsidiary bodies are held in private, unless the Commission decides otherwise (Rule 23 - Public and private meetings - of the Rules of Procedure of the Commission).

    Information on the progress in the work of the Commission at its sessions is contained in the statements by the Chairman.


Prepared by the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs, United Nations.

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