New Argentine Acts applying to Continental Shelf Extension and Hydrocarbon Regime.

In 1991, –before the entry into force of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)- Argentina enacted Law No.23,968 on Maritime Areas which established the outer limit of the Argentine continental shelf up to the outer edge of the continental margin or up to 200 nautical miles (M) where the outer edge is below these limits. Besides, this law reaffirms the Argentine’s sovereign rights for the exploration and exploitation of the natural resources of such areas: minerals, hydrocarbon, and sedentary species (shrimps, mussels, scallops, etc.).

UNCLOS created the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) which. among other tasks, analyses requests from coastal States on matters related to the extension of the outer limit of their continental shelf beyond the 200 M.

For its part, Argentina established the National Commission on the Outer Limits of the Continental Shelf (Comisión Nacional del Límite Exterior de la Plataforma Continental, COPLA) which, on April 21st, 2009, made a submission before the CLCS with the purpose of extending the outer limit of its continental shelf beyond the 200 M, and at some points, up to 350 M.

This submission was adopted by COPLA by consensus on the dates March 11th, 2016, and March 17th, 2017. Notwithstanding, the analysis on the extension of the outer limit at those areas under sovereignty dispute with the United Kingdom or ruled by the Antarctic Treaty was postponed.

Aligned with the abovementioned, in August this year, Argentina enacted two acts related to the Extended Continental Shelf and the Malvinas Islands: acts 27,557 and 27,558.

Act 27,557

This new Act 27,557 is supplementary to Act 23,968 which regulates the maritime areas in compliance with UNCLOS and it defines the Outer Limit of the Extended Continental Shelf by determining the points establishing such limit, as they are illustrated on the map above.

It is worth mentioning that this law does not stipulate new sovereign rights; it defines the limits of the Continental Shelf by virtue of the provisions set forth in UNCLOS as adopted in 1982.

Act 27,558
This act creates a new advisory body for the Executive Branch named “National Council on Affairs relating Malvinas, Georgias del Sur, and Sandwich del Sur Islands and the corresponding Maritime and Island Areas.”

This Council mainly deals with the implementation of state policies aimed at giving effect to sovereign rights over Malvinas, Georgias del Sur and Sandwich del Sur Islands and the corresponding maritime and island areas, as well as with the communication and promotion of national rights at national, regional and global levels, and the research and study of the foundations of Argentina’s position from geographical, environmental, historical, legal, and political points of view.
Decree 822/2020, regulating Act 27,558, sets forth that the Secretariat for the Malvinas Islands, Antarctica and the South Atlantic of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship shall be the enforcement authority. There are no documents published by this National Council so far.

Moreover, on September 24th this year, Decree 771/2020 was enacted to supplement Act 17,319 (Hydrocarbons Regime). This decree updates and increases the value of annual charges and advance payments for exploring and exploiting hydrocarbons.