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Kenya to acquire 150 nautical miles of Indian Ocean in new ‘scramble’

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The extended continental shelf has potential deposits of petroleum, gas, iron-manganese, sulphides and placer deposits 

By JULIUS BOSIRE

Posted  Monday, May 11   2009 at  20:45

Kenya is poised to acquire an additional 103,000 square kilometres of the Indian Ocean following an application to the United Nations, in what is being dubbed “the second and last scramble for the world.”

Having applied before the deadline of May 13, Kenya will be joining other African nations with similar ambitions who stand to gain additional territory beyond their stipulated 12-nautical-mile territorial waters.

Kenya entered its submissions on May 6, and is awaiting a response from the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf on when it should defend its application.

The Commission responded after receiving Kenya’s application: “The consideration of the submission made by Kenya will be included in the provisional agenda of the twenty-fourth session of the Commission to be held in New York from August 10 to September 11, 2009.”

The submission aims to delineate the outer limits of Kenya’s continental shelf outside the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), so as to claim the right to explore and exploit non-living and mineral resources on the seabed and sub-soil of the extended continental shelf adjacent to the EEZ in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The anticipated benefits for Kenya, if the sovereignty is granted, will include exclusive rights to exploit the resources of this area, providing revenue for the government and employment for its citizens.

The potential resources of the extended continental shelf beyond the 200 nautical miles include petroleum and gas, iron-manganese nodules and crusts (manganese, copper, cobalt and nickel), polymetallic sulphides, and placer deposits. Others are phosphorite deposits, methane and biomedical resources.

In the EEZ area, coastal states exercise sovereign rights for the purpose of exploration and exploitation of resources, conservation and management of natural resources, marine scientific research protection and preservation of marine environment and the establishment and use of artificial islands, installations and structures like laying of cables and pipelines.

By Friday, Kenya’s maritime neighbour Tanzania had not entered any submission, although nations were allowed to enter preliminary data awaiting comprehensive submissions, if they lack the resources to make full application. The submission, according to sources, cost the government of Kenya some Ksh700 million (about $9 million).

Contacted by The EastAfrican, the Acting Director of Environment in the Vice President’s office, Esther Makwaia, said Tanzania was in the process of submitting its application and hoped to meet the deadline.

Tanzania is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Nations that do not meet the deadline will relinquish their rights to anything outside their 12-nautical-mile territorial waters and an additional 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone — areas automatically allowed by law.

The government of the United Republic of Tanzania and the government of the Kingdom of Norway on June 17, 2008, signed a two-year agreement to provide funds for a Delineation of the Continental Shelf project. Norway pledged to assist Tanzania with a total amount of $4.6 million.

Kenya entered its submission as the fourth African nation after the Seychelles, Ghana and South Africa.

One of the three joint secretaries of a task force mandated by the government of Kenya in May 2006 to prepare documents for the submission to the UN, Robert Kibiwot, told The EastAfrican in Nairobi that the document prepared was in line with the requirements of the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

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