BY BEN BILUA
LEADERS from Solomon Islands and Fiji will sign the maritime boundary agreement later today.
Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’ team which includes the Special Secretary to the Prime Minister, Attorney General and other officials are currently in Suva for the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting.
According to reports, the Agreement will address Maritime Boundary issues between Solomon Islands and Fiji.
The Agreement contains provisions for the resolution of the overlap of EEZ with the EEZ of Solomon Islands in the north-west of the Fiji basin.
The overlapping EEZ boundary between Fiji and Solomon Islands will be settled through the equidistance principle (equal distance from both countries EEZ) through a median line which is calculated from the base points of the respective countries.
Fiji and Solomon Islands will be seen as a parties to the agreement set out in the preamble recognising where maritime boundaries of the two countries compromised.
The good news is, there is no dispute concerning this demarcation.
According to UNCLOS, all coastal states are entitled to a 12 nautical mile territorial sea (Article 3 of UNCLOS), 24 nautical mile contiguous zone (Article 33 of UNCLOS), and a 200 nautical mile EEZ (Article 57 of UNCLOS) including the extended continental shelf claims not exceeding 350 nautical miles (Article 76 of UNCLOS) from the baseline from which the territorial sea is measured.
As a party to UNCLOS, Fiji has an obligation to define its maritime boundaries, most especially its EEZ which, while it is measured to 200 nautical miles, often overlaps with the EEZ boundaries of other coastal neighbouring States which surround Fiji.
In accordance with Article 74 of UNCLOS, if there is an overlap of the EEZ boundaries between coastal neighbouring States, these States need to negotiate and finalise an agreement for the delimitation of those EEZ boundaries.
Fiji shares its EEZ boundaries with the following neighbouring countries – Vanuatu, Tonga, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, Wallis and Futuna and New Caledonia.