Ghana to Venture Deeper Out to High Seas for Hydrocarbon, Research—Following UN Approval Due in September – From Alhassan Yushau Babalwaiz, ANA UN Correspondent, New York

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Ghana would soon become the first in Sub-Saharan Africa to explore the international waters for natural resources by extending the limits of her continental shelf beyond the 200 nautical miles— after her application gets approved by the UN General Assembly on the margins of the annual meeting of world leaders in September this year.

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A few weeks ago, the Sub-Saharan Africa’s newly-minted oil-producing country sent a high-ranking delegation to pitch her final submissions before the UN Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf (CLCS)—and so far, a consensus has been reached between Ghana and the commission in regards to the Foot of the Slope (FOS) of the continental shelf and outer limits points thereof — with approval to be hinged on the recommendations of the CLCS to the General Assembly.

“By our reckoning, Ghana will be adding to the territorial space—within the continental shelf region, about 30,000 square kilometers in the eastern, and 31,000 square kilometers in the western geographical areas for hydrocarbon and other mineral exploration as well as scientific research,” explains Land and Natural Resources Minister Inusah Fuseini, in an interview shortly after the presentation.

The UN Convention on the Law of the Seas allocates every coastal-member-state ownership of 200 nautical miles of its sea territories.  However, territories which extend beyond the 200 nautical miles are considered as “the common heritage of mankind” or international waters—and any member state may seek to extend her territories beyond her continental shelf into the vast expanse of the international waters—for economic or research purposes.

“In 2009, Ghana became the first in Sub-Saharan Africa to put an application before the UN Secretary General for the right to extend our continental shelf beyond the 200 nautical miles, and under paragraph 15 of the rules of procedure of the Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf, Ghana was obliged to appear before the commission to make a final presentation,” elaborates the sector minister.

But “there is a separate jurisdictional and legal framework that regulate those waters, and there are principles for calculating the extension and the methodology as has been so established under international law,” adds Inusah, who chairs Ghana’s Boundary Commission (BDC).

After her discovery of oil, Ghana and her neighboring Côte d’Ivoire  have locked horns for sometime in territorial dispute — after the latter re-demarcated her territorial waters — laying claim to a significant portion of oil-endowed south western part of Ghana’s territorial waters.

But “it’s important to state here that when the application was lodged with the Secretary General, and before it was considered by the commission, Ghana received a no objection from all the neighboring states—including Côte d’Ivoire,” asserts the minister.

This development is set to re-position Ghana even higher on international investment market, and “it means that a potential for further discovery of hydrocarbon and other mineral resources — taking into consideration the trend of the recent discovery, is more manifest,” he adds.

An elated Inusah says member-states of the commission such as China, Costa Rica, Germany, Japan, and the Commonwealth Secretariat, deserve much gratitude for making it possible for Ghana to reach this stage — after 11 meetings that took place in more than three years .