On December 21, the Ambassador of Chile to the United Nations, Milenko Skoknic, has submitted the Report of the Republic of Chile on the Eastern Continental Shelf of the Province of Easter Island to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
The continental shelf is the natural prolongation of the land territory of States under the sea. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which Chile is a State Party since 1997, contains two concepts of continental shelf: the “scientific continental shelf”, which corresponds to the geological or geomorphological extension of the land territory under the sea, and the “juridical continental shelf” which corresponds to the seabed and subsoil up to a distance of 200 nautical miles from the coast, regardless of the geomorphology of the seabed.
By virtue of its sovereignty over the land, a coastal State´s rights over its continental shelf exist ipso facto and ab initio, without need of a claim or declaration. Nevertheless, when it comes to the outer continental shelf – that is to say the continental shelf that extends beyond 200 nautical miles from the coast- UNCLOS provides that the coastal State must submit information on the limits of the continental shelf to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf set up under Annex II of the Convention.
After more than ten years, Chile has concluded the scientific studies on the extended continental shelf of the Province of Easter Island, consisting of Rapa Nui and Motu Motiro Hiva Islands. The Continental Shelf Unit of the National Department of State Borders and Boundaries has been in charge of leading this enormous effort, with help of the Chilean Navy, the National Continental Shelf, and our universities: Universidad de Chile, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, and Universidad de Concepción.
During this period of more than ten years, seabed bathymetry and geophysics data was collected. After the required analysis, it was possible to conclude that the continental shelf of the Province of Isla de Pascua exceeds 350 nautical miles and extends up to 700 nautical miles. This implies an area of more than 550.000 square kilometers in which Chile exercises sovereign rights over the natural resources of the continental shelf.
Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and Motu Motiro Hiva (Salas y Gómez Island) are the most remote islands in the Pacific Ocean, more than 3,000 kilometers from Chile’s continental coast. These two islands are the tops of a vast volcanic mountain chain, formed over millions of years as the Nazca Plate moved. This enormous extension of submerged mountains under the sea is what makes up the outer continental shelf of the Easter Island Province, the outer limits of which Chile submits today before the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.