The Lomonosov Ridge


The Lomonosov Ridge

02 April 2015 - 11:59


There are four ridge like structures on the Arctic Ocean seafloor. These are: the Gakkel, Lomonosov, Alpha, and Mendeleev Ridges.(1)  Much speculation has recently centered around the Lomonosov Ridge as three major Arctic States, Russia, Canada, and Denmark (via Greenland), are in the process of claiming it as a natural prolongation of their respective continental margin. 

As the Lomonosov Ridge is believed to run from Ellesmere Island and Greenland toward the Russia’s new Siberian Islands,(2) all three States emphasize the legitimacy of their own claim with strong scientific proofs.

The overlapping claims with respect to the Lomonosov Ridge, as well as the outer continental shelves in general, result in a potential dispute in the delimitation process. Understanding and resolving this dispute requires knowledge of multiple disciplines, including legal, geographic, geologic, and politic.


The Lomonosov Ridge, discovered by Russian scientists in 1948 and named after the eighteenth-century Russian scientist Mikhail Lomonosov, is a sliver of continental crust(3)  that separates the Eurasian Basin from the Amerasian Basin; it extends northwards from an area proximate to the continental shelf of Greenland and Canada’s Ellsmere Island, passing near but not over the North Pole, and southwards from there to an area proximate to the continental shelf of Russia’s New Siberian Islands.(4)

It is believed that the Lomonosov Ridge originated from the Eurasian con- tinent and was “parked against the western rim of the Barents Sea continental shelf,” moved a total of 900 kilometers to the west approximately 64 to 56 million years ago, and is now almost beneath the North Pole.(5)

As the second largest ridge in the Arctic Ocean,6  the Lomonosov Ridge spans 1800 km from the New Siberian Islands, over the central part of the ocean to Ellesmere Island of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.7 The width of the Lomonosov Ridge varies from 60 to 200 km.8  It rises 3,300 to 3,700 meters above the seabed. The minimum depth of the ocean above the ridge is 954 m.9


Claims for the Lomonosov Ridge and continental shelves beyond 200 nautical miles are regulated under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) Article 76.10 It is commonly agreed that defining extended continental shelf claims in UNCLOS is very difficult and harder than any other procedures for establishing oceanic limits.11

The Continental Shelf is defined under UNCLOS Article 76 (1) as follows:

The continental shelf of a coastal State comprises the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas that extend beyond its territorial sea throughout the natural prolongation of its land territory to the outer edge of the continental margin.

The Continental Margin is defined under Article 76 (3) as follows:

The submerged prolongation of the land mass of the coastal State, and con- sists of the seabed and subsoil of the shelf, the slope and the rise. It does not include the deep ocean floor with its oceanic ridges or the subsoil thereof.

The above two definitions for the continental shelf and the continental margin, when combined, declare that; (i) the territory of a coastal State extends under water; (ii) the continental shelf constitutes the submerged prolongation of its land territory; and (iii) the outer limit of such prolongation is measured with reference to the submerged prolongation of the land mass, i.e. the “continental margin.”

The continental margin is just a yardstick, a reference, for the determination of the “legal” continental shelf.12 Depending on the various geomorphological circumstances, the “legal” continental shelf can be “wider or narrower than the continental margin.”13

Article 76, through paragraphs 4 to 7, provides more detail, including a set of formulae and constraints that provide a method to extend the continental shelf’s outer limits beyond 200 nautical miles.
Article 76(4)(a) defines the formulae used in establishing the outer continental shelf limits as follows:

For the purposes of this Convention, the coastal State shall establish the outer edge of the continental margin wherever the margin extends beyond 200 M from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured, by either:

(i) a line delineated in accordance with paragraph 7 by reference to the outer- most fixed points at each of which the thickness of sedimentary rocks is at least 1 percent of the shortest distance from such point to the foot of the continental slope; or

(ii) a line delineated in accordance with paragraph 7  by reference to fixed points not more than 60 M from the foot of the continental slope.

Article 76 (5) further sets the limitation by stating that:

The fixed points comprising the line of the outer limits of the continental shelf on the seabed, drawn in accordance with paragraph 4 (a)(i) and (ii), either shall not exceed 350 M from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured or shall not exceed 100 M from the 2,500 meter iso- bath, which is a line connecting the depth of 2,500 meters.14

(Source; Symonds et al., 1998)

Maritime Zones

The Lomonosov Ridge is classified as a seafloor high and this classification determines its legal status and contribution to the coastal State’s outer continental shelf extension.

Seafloor highs, by covering 1.7 times more area, constitute a greater pro- portion of the Earth’s seafloor than the continental margins themselves.15

They have different names on different maps, and are not identified uni- formly.16 This lack of uniformity in classification and description is also apparent from the vagueness of the terminology as the ridge types are not precisely defined.17

Three types of seafloor highs are distinguished in Article 76 paragraphs 3 and 6; Oceanic Ridges, Submarine Ridges, and Submarine Elevations.

1. Oceanic Ridges

Oceanic ridges are associated with the deep ocean and have been defined by the International Hydrographic Organization as “long elevations of the deep ocean floor with either irregular or smooth topography and steep sides.”18  They are ordinarily composed of oceanic crust, and lie completely beyond the geomorphological continental shelf.

The use of the term “oceanic” suggests that oceanic ridges share genetic and geological characteristics with the deep sea floor and are not in morphological continuity with the continental margin, which ends at the deep ocean floor.19  Thus, a coastal State can define an oceanic ridge as a ridge that lacks morphological continuity with the continental margin, and shares genetic and geological characteristics with the deep sea floor.20  Since it is by definition not part of a landmass, an oceanic ridge cannot be claimed as an extension of the outer continental shelf and therefore as a sovereign territory.

2. Submarine Ridges

A Submarine Ridge is “an elongated elevation of the sea floor, with either irregular or relatively smooth topography and steep sides which constitutes a natural prolongation of the land territory.”21  Even though submarine ridges are morphologically an integral part of the continental margin, they differ genetically from the landmass of the coastal state.22  They extend from the continental slope of the continental margin. The same exact geological process that created the continental margin must have created at least part of the submarine ridge.23  Thus, a coastal State can define a submarine ridge as a ridge that is in morphological continuity with the continental margin and therefore is not located in the deep ocean floor, even though part of the ridge may differ geologically and genetically from the landmass of the coastal State.24 The fact that they are natural prolongations of land territory is one of the keys to distinguish submarine ridges from oceanic ridges.

Article 76, although it does not differentiate between oceanic ridges and submarine ridges, excludes oceanic ridges from the continental margin and includes submarine ridges up to 350 nm.25

3. Submarine Elevations

During the negotiations leading to UNCLOS, broad margin coastal states had advocated that certain highs and submarine elevations should be included in the legal continental shelf.26

Defining the cut off line, and the characteristics that define each of the ridges, is very important. The first and foremost reference on this issue, although not sufficiently clear to distinguish between “submarine elevation” and “submarine ridges,” is the language used in Article 76.
Article 76 (6) states that:

Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph 5, on submarine ridges, the outer limit of the continental shelf shall not exceed 350 M from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured. This paragraph does not apply to submarine elevations that are natural components of the continental margin, such as its plateaux, rises, caps, banks and spurs.

According to 76 (6), submarine ridges may provide a valid basis for establishing the outer limit of the continental shelf and thus be subject to nation- al jurisdiction, but not beyond 350 nautical miles from shore, thus removing the “2,500 meter plus 100 nautical mile” option. Submarine elevations that are natural components of the continental margin, such as plateaux, rises, caps, banks, and spurs, may, on the other hand, provide a valid basis for establishing the outer limit of the continental shelf. As a result, based on this submarine elevation claim, a coastal State, under Article 76 (6), can extend its continental shelf beyond what is possible following the 350 nautical miles claim or the 2,500 meters isobaths + 100 nautical miles.

The Scientific and Technical Guidelines of the Commission,27  the most relevant reference, brings some clarity to this issue by indicating which criteria it will apply to distinguish between submarine ridges and submarine elevations.

The Commission states that:

[I]n cases of ridges its view shall be based on such scientific and legal considerations as natural prolongation of land territory and land mass, morphology of ridges and their relation to the continental margin [...] and continuity of ridges. As it is difficult to define the details concerning various conditions, the Commission feels it appropriate that the issue of ridges be examined on a case-by-case basis.28

Coastal States, according to above stated provisions (Article 76 (4) to (6)), can only extend the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. Any other application will be regarded as invalid.29  They will have sovereign rights in their continental shelf for the purpose of “exploring and exploiting its natural resources.”30  These rights are, (i) exclusive;31  and (ii) independent from “occupation, effective or notional, or on any express proclamation” on the part of the coastal State.32 The coastal State also has jurisdiction with regard to, (i) the establishment and use of “artificial islands, installations, and structures;”33  (ii) “drilling on the continental shelf;”34  (iii) cables and pipelines connected to its exploration and exploitation or to “the operations of artificial islands, installations, and structures;”35  (iv) marine scientific research;36 and (v) protection and preservation of marine environment.37

The definition of the continental shelf’s “natural resources” covers mineral resources, “other non-living resources of the seabed and subsoil,” and “living organisms belonging to sedentary species” (i.e. at the harvestable stage, these organisms “either are immobile on or under the seabed or are unable to move except in constant physical contact with the seabed or the subsoil”).38

4. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf 

a. The Structure of the Commission

Article 76 (8) states that:

Information on the limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured shall be submitted by the coastal State to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf set up under Annex II on the basis of equitable geographi- cal representation.

As we see from the above article, the Convention provides for a special body of experts called the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (hereinafter CLCS or the Commission). According to this provision, three years after UNCLOS’s entry into force, the CLCS was established in

The Commission consists of twenty-one members who are “experts in the field of geology, geophysics or hydrography.”39  Each member is elected for a five-year term of office by “States Parties to the Convention from among their nationals, having due regard to the need to ensure equitable geograph- ical representation.”40 Members serve in their personal capacities and may be re-elected.41

The Commission holds two sessions a year, usually in March/April and August/September, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.42 These sessions consist of periods of plenary meetings and periods used by the sub- commissions for the “technical examination of submissions at the Geographic Information System laboratories and other technical facilities of the Division [for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs (DOALOS)].”43 The meetings of the Commission, its sub- commissions and subsidiary bodies are held in private, unless the Commission decides otherwise.44
In general, the Rules of Procedure,45  one of the basic documents of the Commission, regulate the interaction between submitting States and the Commission.46

There are three annexes to the Rules:

Annex I deals with submissions in case of a dispute between States with oppo- site or adjacent coasts or in other cases of unresolved land or maritime dis- putes;

Annex II is devoted to issues of Confidentiality; and Annex III contains the “modus operandi for the consideration of a submission made to the Commission on the Limits of the continental shelf.47

B. The Role of the Commission

There are two reasons for UNCLOS to include the CLCS provision to ver- ify the coastal State’s delineation of its continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. First, the science and the technical complexities of the criteria contained in article 76; and second, the seabed, ocean floor, and subsoil thereof beyond the outer limit of the continental shelf, have been declared, along with their resources, as “common heritage of mankind.”48

The Technical role of the Commission is highlighted in its own duty description. The Commission is a technical review body charged with confirmation that states have followed Article 76’s technical and scientific requirements, such as properly identifying the foot of the slope and using sound scientific methods for measuring sedimentary thickness.49

This technical description is not enough to explain the full extent of the Commission’s role, since Article 76 has vague language and is open to interpretation.

The Commission, therefore, cannot simply review States’ claims against a formulaic technical checklist since there is no consensus on what, exactly, it would check.50  In a wider perspective, Article 76 is considered a legal and technical provision; it incorporates geological and geomorphologic facts into a legal delineation process laid out in an international treaty.51  Figuring out what it means, therefore, requires interpreting a treaty provision, an inherently legal, not technical, undertaking.52

The Coastal State’s delineation of its continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles can only be “final and binding” if it is based on the Commission’s recommendations.53  

That is to say that unless it follows the Commission’s recommendations, a Coastal State cannot secure its claim to the outer continental shelf boundaries.

Highlighting the importance of the final and binding characteristics of Commission’s decision, Macnab states that:

Although most countries have ratified the Law of the Sea, there’s nothing to say you wouldn’t have some rogue government saying it didn’t agree with some past decision and they were going to do things differently. It wouldn’t surprise me to see states say ‘we want to reopen.’ In which case it is back to the drawing board.54

C. The Guidelines and the Complexity Problem

Considering the complex technical and scientific data it had to work with, the Commission created “The Scientific and Technical Guidelines” on 13 May 1999.55

The Guidelines help coastal States prepare their submissions regarding the outer limits of their continental shelf.56 The Guidelines interpret most of the Article 76 terms and explain what evidence the Commission would like States to include in their submissions. But even with the Guidelines, it is not easy for States to make a calculated submission because the Commission,  according  to  UNCLOS,  processes  the  submissions  under strict rules of confidentiality. It only releases a summary of the submission, maps and coordinates for the territory being claimed. 

We do not know how the Commission deals with the disputed submission, and this hinders the resolution of the future claims because coastal States, unaware of the entire process, cannot fully assess their own circumstances. Instead, they are, blindly, forced to submit all relevant documents as evidence to prove their own claims.57

5. Geological and Legal Disputes

There is a dispute among the Arctic geologists and scientists in position- ing the Lomonosov Ridge as a natural prolongation of the landmasses of the adjacent coasts of the American Basin. Some academics, such as Jakobsson et al., disagree with the United States’ free standing future statement,58  and state that the Lomonosov Ridge extends 1650 km across the central Arctic Ocean, from the continental margin of northern Greenland all the way to the shallow shelf of the Laptev Sea.59  According to their description, the Lomonosov Ridge would have no ties to the Canadian territory.

On the other hand, Pharand describes the Ridge as running “from the con- tinental margin off the New Siberian Islands to the one off Ellesmere Island and Greenland passing about 30 kilometers from the North Pole of the Atlantic side,” and therefore having a possible connection to Canada, Denmark and Russia.60 According to an article written by Canadian govern- ment scientists, the geology of the saddle area is different from the surrounding deep ocean floor, there is a continuity of continental crust across the saddle, and the Lomonosov Ridge is incorporated into the North American margin by a continuous foot of the slope envelope.61  The article also states that the collection of samples containing the mineral zircon sup- ports the hypothesis that it is a “double sided continental margin” that is geo- morphologically appurtenant to both the Canadian and/or Danish continen- tal margin and that of Russia.62

There is also a tendency among scholars to qualify the Lomonosov Ridge as a “submarine ridge” and limit Russian claims to an outer continental shelf at 350 nm off the coast.63  Significantly, Hinz, a former member of the Commission, suggests that the Commission considered that the ridges were covered by the first sentence of Article 76(6).64  The article does not state explicitly that the Commission reached this conclusion, but indicates that the classification of the Kerguelen Plateau, south of Heard Island, and the McDonald Islands, as either a submarine ridge or a submarine elevation might have a huge impact on the establishment of the outer limits of the continental shelf in the Arctic. Hinz, in his article, refers to a number of scien- tific publications which conclude that the Southern Kerguelen Plateau is a submarine ridge in the sense of Article 76 (6).65

6. Submissions

A. Russian Submission

The Russian Federation, four years after ratifying UNCLOS on April 11 1997, made its submission to the CLCS on December 20, 2001.66  This was also the first submission received by the CLCS since its first election in 1997.(67)

According to the summary and accompanying map that was released by the CLCS, Russia’s claim in the Arctic Ocean extends up to the North Pole which spans around 102 square nautical miles of Arctic Ocean seabed.68
This submission expressly states that the Lomonosov Ridge is the natural component of Russia’s continental margin.(69)

In March 2002, during his presentation of Russia’s submission to the CLCS, the Deputy Minister for Natural Resources of the Russian Federation stated that:

The integration interpretation of the deep seismic sounding and seismic reflection sounding along the SLO-92 geo traverse passing across Lomonosov Ridge provided data on the velocity characteristics, layering and thickness of the earth’s crust which are characteristics of a continental-type crust. This conclusion is consistent with general accepted concepts.70

Canada, Denmark and United Sates, as a response to Russia’s submission, sent Note Verbales to the CLCS. They raised their concerns regarding the Russian claim and the interpretation of the data submitted along with it. It is important to highlight that none of these three states has raised concerns regarding overlapping claims. Their concerns mostly related to the interpretation of the scientific data.

Canada, as a party interested in the Lomonosov Ridge claim, stated that it was “not in a position to determine whether it agrees with the Russian Federation’s Arctic continental shelf submission without the provision of further supporting data to analyze and that its inability to comment at that point should not be interpreted as either agreement or acquiescence by Canada” to the submission.71  

Additionally, Canada stated that the Russian Federation’s submission to the Commission “on the limit of its continental shelf beyond 200 miles and any recommendations by the Commission in response are without prejudice to the question of delimitation of the continental shelf between Canada and the Russian Federation.”72

Denmark, which was not a party to UNCLOS at the time, also stated that it was “not able to form an opinion on the Russian submission” and that “a qualified assessment would require more specific data.”73 Similar to Canada, Denmark observed that “such absence of opinion at that moment did not imply its agreement or acquiescence to the Russian Federation’s submis- sion” and that the “submission and the Commission’s recommendations are without prejudice to the delimitation of the continental shelf between Denmark/Greenland and the Russian Federation.”74 Denmark also noted that it was not, at that time, in a position to evaluate the possible impact of an extended Russian continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles on the extend- ed shelf appurtenant to Greenland, and therefore unable to state that the Russian claim would not be met by overlapping Danish/Greenlandic claims to continental shelf areas beyond 200 nautical miles in the Arctic.75

The United States, among the Arctic Circle states which are not signato- ry to UNCLOS, responded to the Russian submission by disputing the submarine ridge or elevation status of the Lomonosov Ridge. Significantly, the United States stated that the Lomonosov Ridge “is a freestanding feature in the deep, oceanic part of the Arctic Ocean Basin, and not a natural compo- nent of the continental margins of either Russia or any other State.”76

Under the heading “Submarine Ridges,” the United States declared that, [T]he issue of ridges is complicated by the provision of Article 76, paragraph 6, which speaks of “submarine ridges.” In that regard, the Government of the United States of America [understood] that the first sentence of that paragraph was not used by [the Russian Federation] in establishing the outer limit of the continental  shelf  beyond  200  nautical  miles.  Furthermore,  that  provision could not be so applied.(77)

Unable to make a firm decision based on the submission, the Commission rejected Russia’s claim due to a lack of evidence to prove the claim.(78)

Since its submission was denied, Russia has been busy collecting scien- tific evidence to support its claim that the Lomonosov Ridge is a “submarine elevation,” rather than a “submarine ridge” that is connected to the Russian (Siberian) land mass.79  Russia organized an international conference on the extended continental shelf issue in 2003 in St. Petersburg, and later engaged expeditions in 2005 and 2007.80   Russia demonstrated its Arctic ambition with its famous flag planting expedition in 2007.81  Two mini-submarines, Mir I and Mir II, were sent 4261 m (14,000 feet) below the surface of the Arctic sea to collect samples of sediment and rock to support the theory that the Lomonosov ridge was an extension of the Russian landmass. In August, two expedition teams, led by Artur N. Chilingarov, planted a meter long titanium flag on the seabed.82

Just recently, the Akademik Fedorov research vessel, accompanied by the Yamal nuclear icebreaker, went on an expedition to conduct a seismic survey outside of the 200-nautical mile EEZ.(83) The survey will cover an area of around 350,000 km², and will be used for Russia’s new continental shelf claim.(84)

B. Canadian Submission

Canada, 10 years after ratifying UNCLOS,85  made its partial submission to the CLCS before the due date on December 6, 2013.86  The preliminary application outlines complete scientific evidence regarding Canada’s Atlantic Ocean requests and a portion of its Arctic claim, all the while reserving the nation’s right to make further submissions at a later date.(87)

Significantly, believing there is a connection between Canada and the North Pole, Prime Minister Stephen Harper requested a government board charged with assessing Canada’s claims beyond its territorial waterways to seek a more expansive stake of the Arctic area to include the North Pole.88
On December 9, 2013 Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird stat- ed in a press conference at the House of Commons:

We have asked our officials and scientists to do additional work and necessary work to ensure that a submission for the full extent of the continental shelf in the Arctic includes Canada’s claim to the North Pole.(89)

Canada has spent nearly US$200 million on the scientific-discovery process of the Arctic area.90  Canadian scientists, based on these expeditions, suggest that the Lomonosov Ridge is connected to the Canadian land mass. Specifically in August 2008, Canada announced that recent surveys indicat- ed that the “Lomonosov Ridge is attached to the North American and Greenland plates,”91  which appears to run counter to the earlier findings noted above that the Lomonosov Ridge rifted from the outermost Barents- Kara continental shelf.92  However, except for the aerial survey of the ridge, Canada has not yet collected data beyond the median line with Russia, and there is not enough evidence to reach a firm conclusion about the Lomonosov Ridge.(93)

Just recently, after its partial submission to the CLSC, Canada sent two icebreakers, Coast Guard vessels Terry Fox and Louis St. Laurent, on a six- week journey that took them to the eastern side of the Lomonosov Ridge, to gather scientific data to support its claims about  the Lomonosov Ridge in particular, and the North Pole in general.(94)

A second mapping trip is planned in 2015.(95)

C. Danish Submission

Denmark, ten years after ratifying UNCLOS on 16 November 2004,(96)  has a due date of 2014 to make its extended continental shelf claim submission to the CLCS. Thus, Denmark’s submission was due by the end of 2014.

The Danish autonomous province of Greenland has the nearest coastline to the North Pole,97   and Denmark claims that the northernmost part ofGreenland spreads all the way to the North Pole. This claim would include the Lomonosov Ridge, along with the Morris Jesup Rise, as assumed natu- ral prolongations of Northern Greenland.98

Starting with the Canadian joint expedition LORITA-1 in April-May 2006, Denmark made consecutive tectonic research expeditions, LOMROG I in 2007- 2008, LOMROG II in 2009 and LOMROG III in 2012, to collect detailed evidence about the seafloor of Northern Greenland and to ascertain whether it can be argued that the Lomonosov Ridge constitutes an extension of Greenland’s continental shelf.99

Marcussen, the head of the Danish national geological institute (GEUS) who is leading the expedition is confident about the outcome of the research. He has stated:

We have holes in our data that we need to fill before we submit our claim. We feel pretty sure that our argument is correct and that Denmark can make the claim outside the 200 nautical mile limit.100

Foreign Minister Lene Espersen also stated that Denmark expects to be able to lay claim to an area which includes the seabed of the North Pole.101

7. Politics in Claims

There is a misconception that the only factor motivating coastal States to race for the outer continental shelf claim is that resources may exist beneath the Lomonosov Ridge.

As far as the resources are concerned, nobody actually knows what lies beneath the seafloor of the high north.102 As the U.S. Geological Survey (hereinafter USGS) has found, the Arctic holds one-quarter of the world’s energy resources (103)

Since most of the offshore oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean likely lies within a couple hundred miles from shore, it therefore falls within the Extended Economic Zones (hereinafter EEZ) of theArctic States. But this information does not stop States from spending a great deal of money to look for energy resources in the area. Considering the proximity of the high north, it is understandable that there is significant interest and suspicion about the possible existence of large amounts of hydrocarbon resources around the North Pole.

USGS Map of Undiscovered Oil and Gas in Arctic
USGS Map of Undiscovered Oil and Gas in Arctic
The 2007 Russian Arctic expedition led by Artur Chilingarov provides a good example of the foregoing statement because the controversial and much discussed flag planting event was later shown to be a political move when it was learned that Chilingarov was following orders from the ruling United Russia party.105 The Russian governments under Putin and Medvedev have pursued a deliberate and highly strategic policy to enhance Russia’s Arctic influence and control, and are widely credited with stimulating a “new scramble for the Arctic.”106

On the Canadian side, Prime Minster Harper’s last minute intervention with the Continental Shelf submission can also be considered as evidence of a domestic political motive as well.
As Prof Michel Byers has stated:

North has an extreme emotional value; people have an image that’s essential- ly of Santa’s workshop, so there’s a huge domestic political angle to this, the idea of claiming the North Pole for your country.107

Additionally, doubtful about the success of the Canadian North Pole claim, Prof. Byers recently stated:

Like it or not, the North Pole falls on the Danish side of the equidistance line - it will never be Canadian. The Prime Minister knows that Canada’s claim will fail, but he also knows that the failure will emerge only after he leaves office.108

There are also supporters of Prime Minister Harpers’ move who take the position that because any overlapping claims will be settled by negotiation, it makes sense for Canada to try and get as much for Canada as possible.109

The Arctic card has less influence in Danish domestic politics than in Russia and Canada. But this does not mean that Danish politics are not involved with the outer continental shelf claims. According to tentative unof- ficial maps recently published by Danish scientists, Denmark has drawn a straight line, and this center line has nothing to do with the science or the


The Lomonosov Ridge is not precisely marked on maps, and it is there- fore difficult to determine exactly how the territorial claims overlap on this specific ridge.112

If delineated according to internationally acknowledged equidistance line principles,113  there should not be any Lomonosov Ridge dispute between Canada and Greenland since they both claim different parts of the Ridge.114

However, applying these same principles there will be a dispute between Russia and Canada, and Russia and Denmark.115

The Lomonosov Ridge is one of the most remote, isolated and harsh environments on the planet, and any possible commercial exploration is not in the near future. States might be in a “race” to claim it, but neither of the disputes over the Lomonosov Ridge will likely be resolved, either on the settlement table or before the international court, before Canada, Russia (resubmission), and Denmark submit their claims to the Commission. Accordingly, it is also important to remember that it will take a long time for the Commission to review the claims and resubmissions since it only reviews an average of four per year and has a backlog of 40 claims.116

Therefore, while several States may be pressing their claims, in all likelihood there will not be a rush to resolve the Lomonosov ridge dispute.


*Ilker Basaran has an M.Jur degree from IMO-International Maritime Law Institute, Malta, an M.S. degree from S.U.N.Y. Maritime College, Fort Schuyler, New York, an LLM degree from Temple University School of Law, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and an LLB degree from Istanbul Bilgi University School of Law, Turkey. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. degree.
1Byers, Michael and Baker, James, International Law and the Arctic, Cambridge University Press,
2013 at 104.
2Allain, Monique Andree, Canada’s Claim to the Arctic: A Study in Overlapping Claims to the Outer
Continental Shelf, 42 J. MAR. L. & COM., at 6 (2011).
3Id. See also Jackson, Ruth H. and Dagl-Jensen, Trine and LORITA working group, Sedimentary and Crustal Structure from the Ellesmere Island and Greenland Continental Shelves onto the Lomonosov Ridge, Arctic Ocean, 182 GEO. J. INT’L, at 11 (2010).
4Byers, Michael and Baker, James, supra note 1, at 105.
5NATURE, Geology: The next Land Rush, Published online on January 2, 2008. Available at  (Last  visited  on  August  15,  2014)  (In
1991, researchers aboard the German icebreaker Polarstern and the Swedish icebreaker Oden set out to test this idea. Geologist Yngve Kristoffersen, of the University of Bergen, Norway, was part of the research team. “When we saw the first seismic survey I almost went through the roof,” he remembers. “It was all there, just like a textbook.” On the Eurasian side of the ridge lay half-grabens, features formed by fault rifting as the ridge pulled away from the continent. On the other side were deep sediments. Kristoffersen and his colleagues estimated that the ridge subsided below sea level between 64 million and
56 million years ago).
6Weber, Mel, Defining the Outer Limits of the Continental Shelf across the Arctic Basin: The Russian
Submission, States’ Rights, Boundary Delimitation and Arctic Regional Cooperations, 24 INT’L J. MAR.
& COAST. L. at 661 (2009).
7NORTH   OF   56,  First  Crimea,  later...  the  Lomonosov Ridge,  March  07,  2014,  Available  at (Last visited on September
12, 2014).
10The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Dec. 10, 1982, in force Nov. 16, 1994, 1833
U.N.T.S. 3, available at
(hereinafter Articles mean UNCLOS  Part VI. provisions).
11Haworth,  Richard,  The  Continental  Shelf  Commission, in  Oceans  Policy:  New Institutions, Challenges, and Opportunities, Myron H. Nordquist and John Norton Moore (eds), Martinus Nijhoff
1999, at 147, 147-48; see also Cavnar, Anna, Accountability and The Commission on the Limits of The
Continental Shelf: Deciding Who Owns The Ocean Floor, 42 CORNELL INT’L L.J. 387, at fn.82 (2009).
12United Nations Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs, Training Manual for Delineation of the Outer Limits of the Continental Shelf Beyond 200 Nautical Miles and for Preparation of Submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf at, U.N. Sales No. E 06. V.4 (2006) (hereinafter Training Manual).
13Id. As used in article 76, “land mass” and “continental margin” are scientific (geomorphological) concepts, whereas “land territory” and “continental shelf” are legal concepts. See Symonds, Philip A. and Brekke, Harald, The Ridge Provisions of Article 76 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Myron H. Nordquist et al. (eds.), Legal and Scientific Aspects of Continental Shelf Limits, Martinus Nijhoff, at
170 (2004).
14According to the article, it is up to the coastal State to choose the more favorable method in deter- mining the outer limit of a coastal State continental shelf.
15Symonds, Philip A. and Brekke, Harald, supra note 13, at 152.
16See United Nations Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Scientific and Technical Guidelines, (hereinafter Scientific and Technical Guidelines or The Guidelines). Paragraphs 7.1.3, 7.1.8 and 7.2.3. Available at (Last visited on September 10, 2013).
The Guidelines state that classification of seafloor highs, “shall not be based on their geographical denominations and names used so far in the preparation of the published maps and charts and other relevant literature[,]” but “shall be made on the basis of scientific evidence.” Id. paragraph 7.1.8. The Guidelines declare that this classification should be based on the morphology and genesis of the seafloor high and whether the seafloor high is in geological continuity with the continental margin. Id. paragraphs.
7.2.4, 7.2.10.
18INTERNATIONAL HYDROGRAPHIC ORGANIZATION, A Manual on Technical Aspects of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea –1982, 4th ed., Special Publication No. 51 (2006), Appendix I-21.
19Training Manual, supra note 12, at VII-33.   See also Carpenter, Brent, Warm is the New Cold: Global Warming, Oil, UNCLOS Article 76, and how an Arctic Treaty Might Stop a New Cold War” 35
ENVTL. L. 215, at 230 (2009).
21International Hydrographic Organization, supra note 18.
22Training Manual, supra note 12, at VII-31.
24Id. at VII-31 to VII-32.
25UNCLOS, supra note 10, art. 76 (6). During the negotiations of Article 76, Iceland confirmed that the “provision regarding submarine ridges meant that the 350-mile criterion would apply to ridges which were a prolongation of the landmass.” See Symonds, Philip A. and Brekke, Harald, supra note 13, at 147.
26Byers, Michael and Baker, James, supra note 1, at 102.
27Scientific and Technical Guidelines, supra note 16, Annex II, fig. II.7, (7.2.10 en 7.2.11).
28Id. See also Elferink, Alex G. Oude, The Continental Shelf In The Polar  Regions: Cold War Or
Black-Letter Law? NETHERLANDS YEARBOOK OF INTERNATIONAL LAW, Vol. 40, at 128 (2009).
29UNCLOS, supra note 10, pt. VI, art. 76 (2).
30Id. part VI, art. 77 (1).
31Even, “if the coastal State does not explore the continental shelf or exploit its natural resources, no one may undertake these activities without the express consent of the coastal State.” Id. part VI, art. 77 (2).
32Id. part VI, art. 77 (3).
33Id. part VI, art. 80.
34Id. part VI, art. 81.
35Id. part VI, art. 79 (4).
36Id. part XIII, art. 238.
37Id. part XII, art. 208 (1) (2).
38Id. part VI, art. 77 (4).
39UNCLOS, supra note 10, Annex II, art. 2 (1).
41Id. Annex II, art. 2 (1), (4).
42See, The Secretary-General, Oceans and the Law of the Sea: Report of the Secretary-General, pt. III, paras. 22, 26, delivered to the General Assembly, U.N. Doc. A/57/57/Add.1 (Oct. 8, 2002)(summa- rizing previous CLCS sessions).
43U.N. Comm’n on the Limits of the Cont’l Shelf [CLCS], Rules of Procedure of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, pt II. R.2 Sessions and Meetings, U.N. Doc. CLCS/40/Rev.1 (Apr.
17.   2008)   (hereinafter   Rules   of   Procedure).   Available   at UNDOC/GEN/N08/309/23/PDF/N0830923.pdf?OpenElement (Last visited on September 12, 2014.)
44Id. part VII, R.23 Public and private meetings.
46Id. part XI, Submission by a Coastal State.
47Id. part I-III.
48UNCLOS, supra note 10, pt. XI, § 2, art. 136.
49See Francis, Noel Newton St. Claver, The Continental Shelf Commission, in Oceans Policy: New Institutions, Challenges and Opportunities, Myron H. Nordquist & John Norton Moore eds., Martinus Nijhoff, 135 at 141-42 (1999).
50Cavnar, Anna, supra note 11, at 404.
51Nuno Marques Antunes & Fernando Maia Pimentel, Reflecting on the Legal-Technical Interface of Article 76 of the LOSC: Tentative Thoughts on Practical  Implementation, (presented at the ABLOS Conference Addressing Difficult Issues in UNCLOS, 2003).
52The Scientific and Technical Guidelines, supra note 16, state that the Commission needed to create Technical Guidelines to clarify article 76’s meaning because, “Convention makes use of scientific terms in a legal context which at times departs significantly from accepted scientific definitions and terminol- ogy.”
53UNCLOS, supra note 10, pt. VI. art. 76 (8).
54Nature, supra note 5.
55The Scientific and Technical Guidelines, supra note 16.
57Ideally, the whole process must be open and transparent to the outside world. See Nature, supra note
58Letter from the Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations, UNDoc.CLCS.01.2001.LOS/USA, 28 February 2002, p.3, available at clcs_new/submissions_files/rus01/CLCS_01_2001_LOS   USAtext.pdf.
59Jakobsson Martin, Polyak Leonid, Edwards Margo, Kleman Johan, and Coakley Bernard, Glacial
Geomorphology of the Central Arctic Ocean: The Chukchi Borderland and the Lomonosov Ridge, 33
60Pharand, Donat, The Law of the Sea of the Arctic with Special Reference to Canada, at 260, University of Ottowa Press (1973).
61Supra note 3.
62Id. at 13. See also Ruth Jackson, et al, The Structure of the Lomonosov Ridge, Arctic Ocean, American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2010, abstract # T31A-2122.
63Macnab Ron, The Outer  Limits of the Continental  Shelf in the Arctic Ocean,  at 301-305, M. Nordquist et al. (eds), Legal and Scientific Aspects of Continental Shelf Limits (2004).
64K. Hinz, Wem gehört die zentrale Arktis um den Nordpol und wer ist zuständig fur den Festlandsockel der Antarktis? Wichtige Aspekte des Artikels 76 des Internationalen Seerechtuber-einkom- mens der Vereinten Nationen,77 POLARFORSCHUNG at 60-61 and 63 (2007). See also, Elferink, Alex G. Oude, supra note 28, at 151.
65Id. at 61-62. Analysis of the Australian submission by the United States Geological Service con- cludes that existing studies do not demonstrate that the Southern Kerguelen Plateau is a natural prolon- gation of Heard Island and the McDonald Islands. See, Hutchinson Deborah R. and Rowland Robert W., USGS Analysis of  the Australian  UNCLOS Submission, US Department of Interior-US Geological Survey, Open-File Report Series 2006-1073, at 11.
66Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) Outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines: Submissions to the Commission: Submission by the Russian Federation, available at rus.htm (Last visited on September 4, 2014) It is important to note that Russia is no longer under an offi- cial deadline for resubmission but is under competitive pressure from other coastal arctic states.
68Area of the Continental Shelf of the Russian Federation in the Arctic Ocean beyond 200-Nautical- Mile Zone, available at RUS_CLCS_01_2001_ LOS_2.jpg. (Last visited on September 4, 2014) (Its total claim is 1.2 million square kilometers (more than 460, 000 square miles)).
69McDorman, Ted L., The Continental Shelf Beyond 200 nm: Law and Politics in the Arctic Ocean,
18 J. TRANSNAT’L L. & POL. 155, at 176–177 (2009).
70Statement made by the Deputy Minister for Natural Resources of the Russian Federation during Presentation of the Submission made by the Russian Federation to the Commission on 28 March 2002, Doc.CLCS/31, 5 April 2002, at 5, available at
318/60/PDF/N0231860.pdf? OpenElement. (Last visited on September 7, 2014).
71Note Verbale, Permanent  Mission of Canada  to the United Nations, Notification Regarding the Submission Made by the Russian Federation to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, Ref. No. CLCS.01.2001.LOS/CAN (Jan. 18, 2002), available at submissions_files/rus01/CLCS_01_2001_LOS   CANtext.pdf (Last visited on September 10, 2014).
73Note Verbale, Permanent Mission of Den. to the U.N., Notification Regarding the Submission Made by the Russian Federation  to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, Ref. No. CLCS.01.2001.LOS/DNK (Feb. 4, 2001), available at submissions_files/rus01/CLCS_01_2001_LOS   DNKtext.pdf (Last visited on September 10, 2014).
76Letter from the Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations, supra note 59. Additional and current data regarding the Arctic seafloor has made the U.S. lean towards the possibility that the Lomonosov Ridge might be a national jurisdiction. See Baker, Betsy, Law, Science, and the Continental Shelf: The Russian Federation and the Promise of Arctic Cooperation, 25
AM. U. INT’L L. REV., at 269–270 (2010).
77Id. UNCLOS, supra note 10, art. 76 (6).
78See, Oceans and Law of the Sea, Report of the Secretary – General, Addendum (A/57/57/Add.1 of 8
October  2002),  at.10  para.  41.  available  at
28/PDF/N0262928.pdf?OpenElement, (last visited on September 10, 2014), “[I]t has been speculated that the Commission’s rejection of Russian submission is based on the idea that there exists a morphological break between the ridge and the continental margin.” See, Macnab Ron, Submarine Elevations and Ridges: Wild Cards in the Poker Game of UNCLOS Article 76, 39 OCEAN DEV. & INT’L L., at 226 (2008).
79Russia most likely claimed that these two ridges were elevations under article 76 (6) of the Convention. See Benitah Marc, Russia’s Claim in the Arctic and the Vexing Issue of Ridges in UNCLOS, (2007) 11 AMERICAN SOCIETY OF INTERNATIONAL LAW INSIGHTS, available at insights/volume/11/issue/27/russias-claim-arctic-and-vexing-issue-ridges-unclos. (Last visited on September 11, 2014). Russia plans to prove the Mendeleev and Lomonosov ridges as a geological exten- sion of the Russian continental shelf in order to obtain the right to explore for hydrocarbons in the trian- gle of the Chukotka-Murmansk-North Pole region with an area of 1.2 million km². See Arctic Info, Russia will Conduct a Seismic Survey outside the 200-mile Zone, 31 July 2014, available at http://www.arctic-
80Macnab, Ron & Parson, L., Continental Shelf Submissions: The Record to Date, 21 INT’L J. MAR.
& COASTAL L., at 311-312 (2006).
81Chivers, C. J., Russians Plant Flag on the Arctic Seabed, THE  NEW YORK  TIMES, August 3, 2007, Available at relbias%3Ar%2C%7B%222%22%3A%22RI%3A16%22%7D, (last visited on September 11, 2014).
83Arctic Info, supra note 79.
84Id. For the first time in the world, as part of the Arctic 2014 high-latitude expedition, the Akademik Federov and Yamal nuclear icebreakers conducted an entire complex of geophysical research at the North Pole. See Arctic Info, For the First Time, Russia has Conducted Geophysical Surveys in the North Pole,
15 August 2014. Available at—russia- has-conducted-geophysical-surveys-in-the-north-pole (last visited on September 12, 2014).
85UNCLOS entered into force in Canada on 7 December 2003. See Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from the base- lines: Submission to the Commission: Partial Submission by Canada. available at  (Last visited on September 12, 2014).
87RT, Canada to include the North Pole in its claim for Arctic territory, resources, December 10, 2013 (Last visited on September 12, 2014).
88Id. The original submission was 1.2 million square kilometers, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper stepped in at the last minute to insist that Canada extend its claim further to the North Pole. See also Weber, Bob, The Canadian Press, August 8, 2014, available at sends-vessels-to-map-arctic-sea-floor-1.1952038#ixzz3BsX8yPvq (Last visited on September 12, 2014).
91Press  Release,  Natural  Res.  Can.,  Government of  Canada  Welcomes New Mapping  Data  on Canada’s North, (Aug. 8, 2008), available at resources-canda-government-canada-welcomes-new-mapping-data-on-canadas-north-887636.htm (last visited on September 13, 2014).
92Grantz, Arthur, Treatment of Ridges and Borderlands Under Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea: The Example of the Arctic Ocean, in Myron H. Nordquist et al. (eds.), LEGAL AND SCIENTIFIC ASPECTS OF CONTINENTAL SHELF LIMITS, at 206-207 (2007).
93Byers, Michael and Baker, James, supra note 1 at 109.
94Associated Press, Canada Sends Icebreakers to Arctic to Gather Data, August 8, 2014, available at, (Last visited on September 13,
96Wikipedia,  Territorial  Claims  in  the  Arctic,
in_the_Arctic#Denmark, (Last visited on September 13, 2014).
98Wikipedia, supra note 96. See also Stanners, Peter, Arctic Expedition to Prove Territory Claim, COPENHAGEN POST, August 3, 2012. Available at territory-claim.2331.html. (Last visited on September 13, 2014).
99Byers, Michael and Baker, James, supra note 1 at 106.
100Stanners, Peter, supra note 98.
101THE TELEGRAPH, Denmark Preparing  to Stake Claim on North Pole, 18 May 2011. Available at claim-on-North-Pole.html, (last visited on September 13, 2014).
102Yenikeyeff, Shamil Midkhatkovich and Krysiek Timothy Fenton, The Battle for the Next Energy Frontier,  the  Russian  Polar  Expedition  and  the  Future  of  Arctic  Hydrocarbons.  OXFORD   ENERGY COMMENT,  August   2007,   available   at
2011/01/Aug2007-TheBattleforthenextenergyfrontier-ShamilYenikeyeff-and-TimothyFentonKrysiek.pdf (Last visited on September 8, 2014) (it is claimed that there exist 10 billion tones of hydrocarbon resources in the region).
USGS Map of Undiscovered Oil and Gas in Arctic energy resources.
103   Since most of the offshore oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean likely lies within a couple hundred miles from shore, it therefore falls within the Extended Economic Zones (hereinafter EEZ) of the Arctic States. But this information does not stop States from spending a great deal of money to look for energy resources in the area. Considering the proximity of the high north, it is understandable that there is significant interest and suspicion about the possible existence of large amounts of hydrocarbon resources around the North Pole.
In today’s world, we know that ambitious and bold claims have been asserted to the Commission by Russia and Canada, and are soon to be expected from Denmark, and it is clear that these claims are more a product of domestic politics rather than driven by a desire for resources beneath the Lomonosov Ridge.104
103U.S Geological Survey, USGS Newsroom, 90 Billion of Oil and 1,670 Trillion Cubic Feet Natural Gas Assessed in the Arctic, July 23, 2008, available at article.asp?ID=1980#.VBMOrxbjspE, (last visited on September 13, 2014). (These resources account for about 22 percent of the undiscovered, technically recoverable resources in the world. It is estimated that the Arctic accounts for about 13 percent of the undiscovered oil, 30 percent of undiscovered natural gas, and 20 percent of the undiscovered natural gas liquids in the world, About 84 percent of the estimated resources  are expected to occur offshore.)
104Bennett, Mia, Canadian and Russian Claims to the Arctic: The Allure of the North Pole, December
31, 2013, available at tic-the-allure-of-the-north-pole/ (Last visited on August 30, 2014).
105Dodds,  Klaus  J.,  The WikiLeaks Arctic Cables,  Department  of  Geography,  Royal  Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX.
106Id. See also Dodds, Klaus, Icy Geopolitics, 26 ENV’T & PLAN. D.: SOC. & SPACE 1–6 (2008).
107RT, supra note 87.
108Byers, Michael The North Pole is a Distraction, THE GLOBE AND MAIL published Wednesday, Aug.
20 2012, available at arti- cle20126915/ (last visited on September 6, 2014).
109Weber, Bob, supra note 88.contours of the seabed.
110   This line exists only because key people have agreed that this is where they drew the line.
110Breum, Martin, Is Harper’s Pole Claim an Arctic Deal-breaker? December 19, 2013. Available at (Last visited September 8,
112North of 56, supra note 7.
113An equidistance line is one for which every point on the line is equidistant from the nearest points on the baselines being used. See more, Wikipedia, Equidistance Principle, available at, (last visited on September 13, 2014).
114Staalesen, Atle, No Dispute Over Lomonosov Ridge, (February 02, 2011). Available at, (last visited on September 2, 2014).
115Id. Regarding the Dispute between Russia and Denmark, it is suggested that calculations based on median line principles reveal that the Danish side will own the disputed area that is close to the North Pole.
116Bennett, Mia, supra note 104.

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