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The Curious Case of Ghana/Côte d'Ivoire: A Consistent Approach to Hydrocarbon Activities in the Disputed Area?

  • Bin ZHAO (a1)

Abstract

The Ghana/Côte d'Ivoire case is the first time that an ITLOS ad hoc chamber has addressed the lawfulness of unilateral hydrocarbon activities in a disputed maritime area. This paper analyzes the Chamber's ruling on Côte d'Ivoire's submission no. 2, which covers several important issues: the jurisdiction of the Chamber to decide on submission no. 2, the alleged violation of sovereign rights, and the alleged violation of Article 83(3) of UNCLOS. The paper argues that the Chamber's jurisdictional basis of forum prorogatum is questionable, and that there are inconsistent approaches between the Judgment and the Order of the provisional measures. Additionally, there are not only inconsistent understandings of the “Ivorian maritime area” within the same submission no. 2 by the Chamber, but also a logical gap in the Chamber's reasoning with regard to submission no. 2(iii). Consequently, the Chamber's inconsistent approaches may jeopardize the persuasiveness of its judgment.

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Researcher; LLM (IMO International Maritime Law Institute, Malta); LLM (Tsinghua University, China). The author would like to thank Professor Zhang Xinjun for his feedback on an early draft of this paper. The author is also grateful to the anonymous reviewers of the Journal for their thoughtful and generous comments. The views expressed in the paper are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of any institution with which the author may be associated.

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1. MCCREATH, Millicent and SCANLON, Zoe, “Prospects for the Future Use of ITLOS Ad Hoc Special Chambers after the Ghana/Côte d'Ivoire Case” (2018) 17 The Law & Practice of International Courts and Tribunals 309 at 310.

2. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, “Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire ITLOS Judgment” (September 2017), online: Freshfields <https://www.freshfields.com/globalassets/services-page/disputes-litigation-and-arbitration/publication-pdfs/freshfields-briefing---ghana-cdi---itlos-judgment.pdf>.

3. Dispute Concerning Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire in the Atlantic Ocean (Ghana/Côte d'Ivoire), Judgment of 23 September 2017 at para. 64, online: ITLOS <https://www.itlos.org/fileadmin/itlos/documents/cases/case_no.23_merits/C23_Judgment_23.09.2017_corr.pdf>.

4. Pieter BEKKER and Robert VAN DE POLL, “An ITLOS Special Chamber Fixes the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire Based on Strict Equidistance” (9 October 2017), online: DOLFIN—Dundee Ocean and Lake Frontiers Institute and Neutrals <https://sites.dundee.ac.uk/dolfin/wp-content/uploads/sites/95/2018/05/Dolfin-Ghana-Cote-dIvoire.pdf>.

5. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3 at para. 1.

6. Ibid., at para. 3.

7. Ibid., at para. 7.

8. Dispute Concerning Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire in the Atlantic Ocean (Ghana/Côte d'Ivoire), Memorial of Ghana at para. 1.6, online: ITLOS <https://www.itlos.org/fileadmin/itlos/documents/cases/case_no.23_merits/pleadings/Memorial_of_Ghana_Vol._I.pdf>.

9. Bekker and van de Poll, supra note 4.

10. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3 at para. 588.

11. Ibid., at para. 581.

12. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3, Separate Opinion of Judge Paik at para. 11.

13. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3 at para. 604.

14. Ibid., at para. 191.

15. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3, Separate Opinion of Judge Paik at para. 11.

16. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3 at para. 568.

17. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3, Separate Opinion of Judge Paik at para. 11.

18. Ibid.

19. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3 at para. 660.

20. Bekker and van de Poll, supra note 4.

21. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3 at para. 63.

22. Ibid.

23. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3 at para. 660.

24. Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, “Chamber of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea Renders Important Decision on Hydrocarbon Activities Carried Out in a Disputed Area” (29 November 2017), online: Debevoise <https://www.debevoise.com/~/media/files/insights/publications/2017/11/20171129%20special_chamber_of_the_international.pdf>.

25. Art. 83(3): Pending agreement as provided for in paragraph 1, the States concerned, in a spirit of understanding and co-operation, shall make every effort to enter into provisional arrangements of a practical nature and, during this transitional period, not to jeopardise or hamper the reaching of the final agreement. Such arrangements shall be without prejudice to the final delimitation. United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 10 December 1982, 1833 U.N.T.S. 397 (entered into force 16 November 1994) [UNCLOS], online: United Nations <http://www.un.org/Depts/los/convention_agreements/texts/unclos/unclos_e.pdf>.

26. ANDERSON, David and VAN LOGCHEM, Youri, “Rights and Obligations in Areas of Overlapping Maritime Claims” in JAYAKUMAR, Shunmugam, KOH, Tommy, and BECKMAN, Robert, eds., The South China Sea Disputes and the Law of the Sea (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2014), at 198.

27. Art. 74(3) is identical to art. 83(3), supra note 25.

28. Arbitral Tribunal Constituted Pursuant to Article 287, and in Accordance with Annex VII, of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in the Matter of an Arbitration between Guyana and Suriname, at para. 460.

29. Ibid., at para. 465.

30. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3, at para. 630.

31. Ibid., at paras. 627 and 629.

32. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3, Separate opinion of Judge Paik at para. 1.

33. Ibid.

34. IOANNIDES, Nicholas A., “A Commentary on the Dispute Concerning Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire in the Atlantic Ocean (Ghana/Côte d'Ivoire)” (2017) 3 Maritime Safety and Security Law Journal 48 at 58.

35. CHURCHILL, Robin, “Dispute Settlement in the Law of the Sea: Survey for 2017” (2018) 33 International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law 1 at 13. See also Nigel BANKES, “ITLOS Judgment in the Maritime Boundary Dispute Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire” JCLOS-Blog (27 October 2017) at 9, online: JCLOS-Blog <http://site.uit.no/jclos/files/2017/10/JCLOS-Blog_271017_ITLOS-Judgment-in-the-Maritime-Boundary-Dispute.pdf>.

36. Ioannides, supra note 34 at 57.

37. Bankes, supra note 35 at 10.

38. Xuechan MA, “Ghana v. Côte d'Ivoire: Unilateral Oil Activities in Disputed Marine Areas” Opinio Juris (9 November 2017), online: Opinio Juris <http://opiniojuris.org/2017/11/09/ghana-v-cote-divoire-unilateral-oil-activities-in-disputed-marine-areas/>.

39. Natalia ERMOLINA and Constantions YIALLOURIDES, “State Responsibility for Unilateral Hydrocarbon Activities in Disputed Maritime Areas: The Case of Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire and Its Implications” JCLOS-Blog (23 November 2017) at 6, online: JCLOS-Blog <http://site.uit.no/jclos/files/2017/11/JCLOS-Blog-231117_Ghana-blog_final.pdf>.

40. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3, Separate Opinion of Judge Paik at para. 19.

41. Ibid., at para. 545.

42. Ibid., at para. 547 (emphasis added).

43. Ibid., at para. 547.

44. Ibid., at para. 548 (emphasis added).

45. Ibid., at para. 547.

46. Ibid., at para. 555.

47. Ibid., at para. 548.

48. Ibid., at para. 547.

49. Ibid., at para. 548.

50. Ibid., at para. 547.

51. In the Matter of a Conciliation Between the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste and the Commonwealth of Australia, Decision on Australia's Objection to Competence, 19 September 2016, at para. 93, online: PCA <https://pcacases.com/web/sendAttach/1921>.

52. Ibid., at para. 94.

53. Ibid., at para. 97.

54. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3 at para. 548.

55. The M/V “Louisa” Case (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines v. Kingdom of Spain), Judgment of 28 May 2013, at para. 83, online: ITLOS <https://www.itlos.org/fileadmin/itlos/documents/cases/case_no_18_merits/published/C18_Judgment_280513.pdf>.

56. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3 at para. 548.

57. Ibid. (emphasis added).

58. Ibid., at para. 555 (emphasis added).

59. Art. 288, UNCLOS (emphasis added).

60. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3 at para. 555 (emphasis added).

61. Ibid., at para. 550.

62. Ibid., at para. 553.

63. Churchill, supra note 35 at 10.

64. Art. 98(1), Rules of the Tribunal (ITLOS/8), (adopted on 28 October 1997 and amended on 15 March 2001, 21 September 2001, 17 March 2009, and 25 September 2018), online: ITLOS <https://www.itlos.org/fileadmin/itlos/documents/basic_texts/Itlos_8_E_25.09.18.pdf>.

65. Alleged Violations of Sovereign Rights and Maritime Spaces in the Caribbean Sea (Nicaragua v. Colombia), Counter-Claims, Order of 15 November 2017, [2017] I.C.J. Rep. 289 at para. 19.

66. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3 at para. 548.

67. Rules of the Tribunal (ITLOS/8), supra note 64, art. 54(5) reads:

When the applicant proposes to found the jurisdiction of the Tribunal upon a consent thereto yet to be given or manifested by the party against which the application is made, the application shall be transmitted to that party. It shall not however be entered in the List of cases, nor any action be taken in the proceedings, unless and until the party against which such application is made consents to the jurisdiction of the Tribunal for the purposes of the case.

68. TREVES, Tullio, “Conflicts Between the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the International Court of Justice” (1999) 31 International Law and Politics 809 at 816.

69. Churchill, supra note 35 at 10.

70. Art. 293, UNCLOS (emphasis added).

71. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3 at para. 555.

72. Ibid., at para. 63.

73. Ibid., at para. 547.

74. Ibid., at para. 553.

75. Ibid.

76. Art. 31(4), Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 23 May 1969, 1155 U.N.T.S. 331, 8 I.L.M. 679 (entered into force 27 January 1980) [VCLT].

77. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary in the Atlantic Ocean (Ghana/Côte d'Ivoire), Provisional Measures, Order of 25 April 2015, ITLOS Reports [2015], at para. 1.

78. Ibid., at para. 25.

79. Ibid., at para. 108.

80. Ibid., at para. 91 (emphasis added).

81. Ibid., at para. 95 (emphasis added).

82. Ibid., at para. 100 (emphasis added).

83. Ibid., at paras. 91, 95.

84. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3 at para. 592.

85. YIALLOURIDES, Constantinos, “Calming the Waters in the West African Region: The Case of Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire” (2018) 26 African Journal of International and Comparative Law 507 at 525.

86. Ibid.

87. Aegean Sea Continental Shelf, Interim Protection, Order of 11 September 1976, [1976] I.C.J. Rep. 3 at para. 31 (emphasis added).

88. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3 at para. 591.

89. Ibid., at para. 592 (emphasis added).

90. Art. 290(1), UNCLOS reads:

If a dispute has been duly submitted to a court or tribunal which considers that prima facie it has jurisdiction under this Part or Part XI, section 5, the court or tribunal may prescribe any provisional measures which it considers appropriate under the circumstances to preserve the respective rights of the parties to the dispute or to prevent serious harm to the marine environment, pending the final decision.

91. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3 at para. 632.

92. Churchill, supra note 35 at 13.

93. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3, Separate Opinion of Judge Paik at para. 17.

94. Ibid., at para. 9.

95. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3 at para. 633.

96. Ibid., at para. 588 (emphasis added).

97. Ibid., at para. 589 (emphasis added).

98. Ibid., at para. 604.

99. Ibid.

100. Dispute Concerning Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire in the Atlantic Ocean (Ghana/Côte d'Ivoire), Reply of Ghana, vol. 1 at 144 (emphasis added).

101. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3 at para. 633 (emphasis added).

102. Ibid.

103. See the above discussion in Part III.A.1.

104. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3 at para. 631.

105. Ibid., at para. 632 (emphasis added).

106. Ibid., at para. 633 (emphasis added).

107. Ibid., at para. 631 (emphasis added).

108. Ibid., at para. 633 (emphasis added).

109. Legality of Use of Force (Yugoslavia v. Belgium), Provisional Measures, Order of 2 June 1999, [1999] I.C.J. Rep. 124 at para. 27.

110. Obligation to Negotiate Access to the Pacific Ocean (Bolivia v. Chile), Preliminary Objection, Judgment, [2015] I.C.J. Rep. 592 at para. 26; see also Nuclear Tests (New Zealand v. France), Judgment, [1974] I.C.J. Rep. 457 at para. 30.

111. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3 at para. 547 (emphasis added).

112. Ibid., at para. 606 (emphasis added).

113. Ibid., at para. 618 (emphasis added).

114. Nuclear Tests (Australia v. France), Judgment, [1974] I.C.J. Rep. 253 at para. 57.

115. Request for Interpretation of the Judgment of 15 June 1962 in the Case concerning the Temple of Preah Vihear (Cambodia v. Thailand), Judgment, [2013] I.C.J. Rep. 281 at para. 101.

116. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3 at para. 634.

117. Ibid., at para. 633.

118. Ibid., at para. 634.

119. Nuclear Tests, supra note 114 at para. 29.

120. Ibid., at para. 30.

121. Fisheries Jurisdiction (Spain v. Canada), Jurisdiction of the Court, Judgment, [1998] I.C.J. Rep. 432 at para. 30.

122. Nuclear Tests, supra note 114 at para. 30.

123. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3 at para. 63.

124. Ibid., at para. 544 (emphasis added).

125. Ibid., at para. 612 (emphasis added).

126. Ibid., at para. 618 (emphasis added).

127. Art. 83(3), UNCLOS (emphasis added).

128. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3 at para. 630.

129. Ibid., at para. 61 (emphasis added).

130. Ibid., at para. 62.

131. Ibid., at para. 589 (emphasis added).

132. See above Part III.A.3.

133. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3 at para. 547 (emphasis added).

134. Judge Paik rejected submission no. 2(iii) because the activities undertaken by Ghana did not take place in the Ivorian maritime area as referred to in submission no. 2(iii), but in an area attributed to Ghana; he called this the “formalistic reason”. See Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3, Separate Opinion of Judge Paik at para. 1.

135. Bankes, supra note 35 at 10.

136. Ibid.

137. McCreath and Scanlon, supra note 1 at 334.

138. The first is the Arbitration Between Guyana and Suriname case, supra note 28.

139. See supra notes 30, 31.

140. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3 at para. 633.

141. Arbitration between Guyana and Suriname, supra note 28 at para. 481.

142. Ibid., at para. 480.

143. Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary Between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, supra note 3, Separate Opinion of Judge Paik at para. 15.

* Researcher; LLM (IMO International Maritime Law Institute, Malta); LLM (Tsinghua University, China). The author would like to thank Professor Zhang Xinjun for his feedback on an early draft of this paper. The author is also grateful to the anonymous reviewers of the Journal for their thoughtful and generous comments. The views expressed in the paper are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of any institution with which the author may be associated.

The Curious Case of Ghana/Côte d'Ivoire: A Consistent Approach to Hydrocarbon Activities in the Disputed Area?

  • Bin ZHAO (a1)

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