Defining Australia in the Digital Age
02 November 2012
Australia’s recent proclamation earlier this year of its 11 million square kilometres of continental shelf was based on exact co-ordinates developed by scientists from Geoscience Australia, providing certainty over areas to which Australia has exclusive seabed rights.
The proclamation made under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea now defines the continental shelf limit by stating the precise location of Australia’s maritime limits. Australia’s continental shelf limits were previously defined by a legal definition alone, with the exact geographic location of the limits unspecified.
Geoscience Australia Senior Maritime Boundary Advisor Matthew McGregor said that recent advances in geospatial technology have rendered the previously paper based approach to defining jurisdictional boundaries inadequate.
When the Law of the Sea Convention was first drafted in the late 1970s, jurisdictional limits were defined using navigation and charting methods that had changed little since the time of Captain Cook. New digital methods such as precise navigation, remote sensing, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and electronic nautical charting are better equipped to meet the level of precision demanded by the increasing complexity of marine regulation, and the technologies used by modern mariners.
"Although these digital mapping methods did not exist at the time the Convention was drafted, they still remain consistent with its letter and intent," Mr McGregor said.
Geoscience Australia’s Law of the Sea and Maritime Boundary Advice project leader, Mr Mark Alcock said that this work reflects the commitment and expertise developed by Geoscience Australia and its partners to improve the spatial management of the Australian Maritime Jurisdiction. It provides greater certainty and accessibility to marine spatial information for decision making and regulatory purposes, and is fundamental to the good governance of Australia’s maritime spaces.
The proclamation in May of Australia’s claim under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea was a culmination of nearly twenty years of persistent scientific, legal and diplomatic work by a range of government agencies, particularly Geoscience Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Attorney-General's Department.
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