The Long Grass at the North Pole

Professor Andrew Serdy

Though legally no more significant than any other point in the Arctic Ocean, into which State’s continental shelf the North Pole will ultimately fall is politically charged for the three States involved – Canada, Demark (Greenland) and Russia – that have submitted to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf outer limits within which the Pole falls.  The 2014 Danish submission, for an area extending beyond the equidistance line with Canada, was in that sense paradoxically helpful to Canada, as Denmark, with the northernmost land territory, is by definition closest to the Pole, which must therefore lie on its side of any such line drawn between itself and any other State; thus Denmark gave cover to Canada which needed to take a similar approach to define its continental shelf entitlement as including the North Pole.  Boundaries will eventually have to be delimited, but as it likely to be 20 years before the Commission examines the last of the submissions, the three States have ample pretext to postpone this step until then, a solution likely to suit them all.


Recruited by Southampton in 2005 to teach the international law of the sea in the LLM and public international law in the LLB.

Formerly served in a number of diplomatic positions in the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (including postings in Tokyo and Warsaw), before specialising in the Law of the Sea in the Department’s Sea Law, Environmental Law and Antarctic Policy Section.

Legal adviser to Australian delegations to the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission and other international meetings; appeared for Australia in 2000 in the Southern Bluefin Tuna case.

Worked also on Australia’s November 2004 submission under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf on the outer limits of Australia’s shelf where it extends beyond 200 miles from the territorial sea baseline, as well as on the Australia-New Zealand maritime boundary delimitation treaty of 25 July 2004 and the 2003 Australia-East Timor Agreement on the Unitisation of the Sunrise and Troubadour Petroleum Deposit.

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