Wir Shetland statement on BP sending Schiehallion oil to Rotterdam.

The decision by BP to permanently bypass Shetland with oil from their Schiehallion Field outlines in stark relief the need for self-governing powers urgently to be devolved to Shetland.

There will now be the customary stampede of politicians attempting to save face by salvaging something from this disaster and claim the credit when a few crumbs are swept from BP’s table for us to scramble after.

However, that is all entirely needless. The real problem is not that this has happened but that it has been allowed to happen. So how could it have been prevented?

The answer is simple. Had Shetland had control of our exclusive economic zone the original consent awarded to BP to exploit the field would have contained the condition that all associated oil and gas processing must be done in Shetland.

As it stands, we now face yet more financial difficulties for the SIC and all we can do is tighten our belts yet further while oil revenue and profits flow relentlessly, in billions, to the Treasury and BP.

Shetland needs full autonomous government, now.

John Tulloch
Chair, Wir Shetland.”
Chat conversation end

Notes on Shetlands EEZ 2

You can find our earlier post on EEZ here

Wikipedia defines an Exclusive Economic Zone as:-

An exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is a sea zone prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea over which a state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.[1] It stretches from the baseline out to 200 nautical miles (nmi) from its coast. In colloquial usage, the term may include the continental shelf. The term does not include either the territorial sea or the continental shelf beyond the 200 nmi limit. The difference between the territorial sea and the exclusive economic zone is that the first confers full sovereignty over the waters, whereas the second is merely a “sovereign right” which refers to the coastal state’s rights below the surface of the sea. The surface waters, as can be seen in the map, are international waters.[2]

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) does not define the exact method that must be used when defining a nations EEZ in the case of another nation having a claim within the 200Nmi limit of another nation. Rather it calls for both nations to agree an equitable division of the area.

One of the methods commonly, but not exclusively used to define an equitable division of an area is  the principal of the median line. The median line is the line which is half way from one nations coast to the next. When the UK, Norway, and Faroe negotiated their respective borders the median line was the starting point for negotiation, and the final borders are very close (if not exactly) defined by the median line.

A great tool for examining countries EEZ can be found at http://www.seaaroundus.org/data/#/eez Note that all British Overseas Territories Such as Saint Helina, Tristan Da Cunha, South Georgia, Pitcairn, Bermuda etc. all have the full 200Nmi unless they are within 400Nmi of a neighbouring territory.  As a British Overseas Teritory Shetland will have it’s own Government, but will retain the queen as head of state, The levels of autonomy of BOT’s vary, smaller islands with small populations tend to be run by a Governor, while islands such as Bermuda, Falklands, and The Turks and Caicos Islands, have their own governments and if a governor is appointed his duties are mostly ceremonial.

We have seen that in the north sea, the EEZ borders are mostly based on the equidistant principal. We have also seen that British Overseas Territories are entitled to their own EEZ. These two points are plain facts, there can be no debate about them. It therefore follows that if Shetland was to become a British overseas territory it would be entitled to its own EEZ, and the starting point for defining that EEZ would be the equidistant principal.

If we assume the equidistant principal stands then the EEZ that Shetland could claim is shown below.

EEZ With Border

Under the provisions of UNCLOS it is a requirement for both parties to agree to the border between their respective EEZ, if the parties can not agree then arbitration may be required. Of course the position of Fair Isle has a significant impact on the border with the rest of the UK and it could be argued that it has a disproportionate impact on the border but, the legal principal has been set around Shetland with the borders to Faroe and Norway.

Notes on Shetlands EEZ

The issue of how much coastal waters would form part of a devolved Shetland has become a talking point in the Wir Shetland campaign over the last few days with some people claiming that an autonomous Shetland would only have rights to water out to 12Nmi.

This claim comes from a paper by Mahdi Zahraa titled Prospective Anglo-Scottish Maritime Boundary Revisited published here. The section in question is found on page 24 of the PDF and discusses the situation that would arise if Shetland and Orkney decided to stay with the rest of the UK (RUK) in the case of Scottish independence. In this case, Shetland and Orkney would remain part of the UK while Scotland went independent. In this case Shetland and Orkney would be seen as an enclave of RUK in Scottish waters.

Profesor Robert Rawthorn in his written evidence to the House of Lords select Committee on economic affairs

The Orkney and Shetland Islands: There is concern in the Orkney and Shetland islands about membership of an independent Scotland, and in the event of Scottish independence it is conceivable that these islands would opt to remain part of the UK6 . The Scottish National Party has conceded that this would be a feasible option for the islanders. It would have important implications for the control of North Sea oil and gas. According to the normal principles of international law, there would be an exclusive economic zone around the Orkneys and Shetlands if they were to remain within the UK. This would give the UK control of part of the North Sea that would otherwise be under Scottish control. The fact that the Orkneys and Shetlands are located close to Scotland but several hundred miles from the English shore is no obstacle to them remaining in the UK, nor under international law does it prevent the UK from having an EEZ based on these islands. The exact boundaries of such an EEZ are uncertain and would have to be settled by negotiation between the parties
involved. Media reports claim that a quarter of current UK North Sea revenue derives from resources located within the potential EEZ of the Orkneys and Shetlands. This is about 30
percent the North Sea revenue that Scotland might otherwise expect to enjoy following independence.

Of course Wir Shetland are not campaigning to stay with RUK, we are campaigning for British Overseas Territory status (BOT). Under BOT status Shetland would not be part of the United kingdom. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) if Shetland is no longer part of the UK it will have full claim to it’s territorial waters out to 200NMi or the median line i.e. half way to the neighbours, or Faro, Norway, and the rest of the UK.