Oceans and Law of the Sea


Scientific and Technical Guidelines

CLCS/11 - Scientific and Technical Guidelines of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf 13 May 1999 English pdf Franšais Espa˝ol
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English - htm format [incorporates CLCS/11/Corr.1]
CLCS/11/Corr.1 24 February 2000 English Franšais Espa˝ol
Arabic Chinese Russian
CLCS/11/Corr.2 17 May 2000   Chinese  
CLCS/11/Add.1 - Scientific and Technical Guidelines of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf - Annexes II-IV to the Guidelines adopted by the Commission on 3 September 1999 at its sixth session 3 September 1999 English pdf Franšais Espa˝ol
Arabic Chinese Russian
English - htm format
CLCS/11/Add.1/Corr.1 19 November 1999 English pdf    

    The Scientific and Technical Guidelines is the third basic document of the Commission. During its second session (September 1997), the Commission set up a number of technical working groups to formulate scientific and technical guidelines with respect to the data and information to be included in the submission by a coastal State. After the initial work was done by these groups, the Commission established an Editorial Working Group on its Scientific and Technical Guidelines at its third session (May 1998). The Guidelines are aimed at assisting coastal States to prepare their submissions regarding the outer limits of their continental shelf. The determination of these criteria involves complex technical and scientific data which must be considered by the Commission. A first draft of the document was completed before the end of the session. It was decided to continue the work intersessionally, and to incorporate all further changes to the text at the next session.

    At its fourth session, the Commission resumed its work on the Scientific and Technical Guidelines and decided to adopt them provisionally (CLCS/L.6). It was also agreed that pending formal adoption at the fifth session, the Guidelines could be provisionally applied. The parts of the text subject to further consideration would be indicated by square brackets.

    The Scientific and Technical Guidelines were finally adopted by the Commission on 13 May 1999 and published in document CLCS/11. An extensive exchange of views took place, particularly on those parts of the text on which consensus had not yet been reached. It was also determined that all issues raised at the 1993 and 1995 meetings of experts on the continental shelf were addressed in the Guidelines.

    Several States had addressed letters to the Commission containing comments to the Guidelines. The comments were translated and issued as conference room papers intended only for the internal use of the Commission so that its members might consider them before taking a decision on the Guidelines.

    Some substantive amendments proposed by various members of the Commission to ensure a final consensus text were accepted and incorporated in the revised version. Among them were amendments on the issues of baselines, selection of straight lines to delineate the outer limit of the continental shelf, some aspects of geodetic methodologies, sources of data for bathymetric measurements, foot of the continental slope determined as the point of maximum change of gradient, foot of the continental slope determined on the basis of evidence to the contrary, ridges and sediment thickness.

    Annex II to the Guidelines, containing flowcharts and illustrations to assist States in the preparation of their submissions, was not adopted at the same time as the remainder of the Guidelines, as it was felt that further elaboration was needed. Annexes II to IV (CLCS/11/Add.1) were adopted at the following (sixth) session on 3 September 1999.

    The Commission also decided to convene an open meeting for the first day of its seventh session (1-5 May 2000), with a view to raising the awareness of States of the necessity of implementing the provisions of article 76 relating to the establishment of the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles, bearing in mind the requirement of the Convention to submit particulars of such limits to the Commission in accordance with the 10-year rule. In order to provide additional scientific and technical guidance to help coastal States throughout the process of preparation of a submission, the Commission also decided to continue its work on a flowchart which was adopted provisionally at its seventh session on 5 May 2000 (CLCS/22).

    The Open Meeting was held by the Commission on 1 May 2000, which was intended to point out to policymakers and legal advisors what benefits the coastal States may derive from implementing the provisions of article 76, as well as to explain to the experts in marine sciences who are involved in the preparation of submissions how the Commission considers that the Scientific and Technical Guidelines should be applied in practice. Approximately 100 participants attended the meeting.


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

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