printable versionPrint this page

1972 Seabed Boundaries Agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and the Republic of Indonesia on Seabed Boundaries in the Area of the Timor and Arafura Seas.

Category: Agreement
Date: 9 October 1972
Sub Category:Treaty (International)
Location:Timor and Arafura Seas, East Timor and Australia
Subject Matter:Economic Development | Mining and Minerals | Petroleum | Exploration
Summary Information:
The Agreement between the Commonwealth Australia and the Republic of Indonesia on Seabed Boundaries in the Area of the Timor and Arafura Seas (the Agreement) is supplementary to an agreement of 18 May 1971 between the governments of Australia and Indonesia, on the delimitations of the seabed boundaries between the Indonesian Province of Irian Jaya (West Papua) and the Australian Trust Territory of New Guinea. The Agreement concerned the permanent settlement of the seabed boundaries in the areas of the Timor and Arafura Seas. The agreement was signed in Jakarta on 9 October 1972 and came into force on 8 November 1973. The purpose of the agreement was to enable the respective governments to exercise their sovereign rights to explore the seabed and to exploit its natural resources in the area of the Timor and Arafura Seas. It was agreed, according to international law at the time, that Australia had sovereign rights over the seabed to the limit of the continental shelf which was significantly closer to Indonesia than Australia and extended to the Timor Trough, approximately 40 nautical miles from Portuguese Timor. As Portugal, the colonial master of Portuguese Timor, was not involved in the process of negotiation and did not accept the agreement, the agreement on the boundaries left a gap in the area of the Timor Sea between Portuguese Timor and Australia. This gap was called the Timor Gap (see map).
Detailed Information:
1. Background

From 1953 to 1976, the year in which Indonesia annexed Portuguese Timor as its 27th province, both Australia and Portugal had adopted consistent and opposing positions regarding the maritime boundaries in the Timor Sea. While Portugal insisted 'that it had control of the resources on its side of the median line between Australia and Timor', Australia insisted 'that it had control of the resources on the continental shelf up to the Timor Trough', which it based on the 1958 Geneva Convention on the Continental Shelf (Brennan 2004: 21). 'Under the 1958 Convention on the Continental Shelf, a coastal state has sovereign rights over the continental shelf as the natural prolongation of its land territory up to the depth of 200 metes or to the depth at which exploitation of the natural resources is technically possible.' (Triggs, 2004: 332). Portugal refused to participate in negotiations with Australia over the seabed boundary and wanted to wait until the 1974 Law of the Sea Convention was finalised. In this political climate it was impossible to finalise the boundary between Portuguese Timor and Australia, in the way that the boundary between Indonesia and Australia had been finalised by this 1972 Agreement. This situation resulted in the creation of the 'Timor Gap', a gap which could only be closed by further agreement involving Portugal. Were East Timor like West Timor, a part of Indonesia, who were prepared to negotiate with Australia over the maritime boundary, the Timor Gap would never have existed and the 1972 maritime boundaries in the Timor Sea would have been permanently settled.


2. The Contents of the Agreement.

2.1 The agreement sets out the understanding between the parties in relation to seabed boundaries in the Timor and Arafura Seas between Indonesia and Australia. This was worked out in accordance with international law at that time (Geneva Convention on the Continental Shelf , 29 April 1958).

2.2 Both parties agreed to acknowledge the sovereign rights of each other in and over the seabed areas within the limits established by the Agreement and to cease to claim or to exercise sovereign rights beyond these boundaries.

2.3 Where a single resource deposit extends across any of the boundary lines the parties agreed to 'seek to reach agreement on the manner in which the accumulation or deposit shall be most effectively exploited and on the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from such exploitation.'

Related Entries

Agreement
  • Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste relating to the Unitisation of the Sunrise and Troubadour fields
  • Timor Sea Treaty
  • TIMOR GAP TREATY between Australia and the Republic of Indonesia on the Zone of cooperation in an area between the Indonesian Province of East Timor and Northern Australia
  • Treaty between the Government of Australia and the Government of the Republic of Indonesia establishing an Exclusive Economic Zone Boundary and Certain Seabed Boundaries
  • Organisation
  • Commonwealth of Australia - Signatory
  • Commonwealth of Australia - Signatory
  • Government of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste
  • Government of the Republic of Indonesia - Signatory
  • Event
  • United Nations Convention on the Continental Shelf

  • References

    Book
    Frank Brennan SJ (2004) The Timor Sea's Oil and Gas: What's Fair? (Catholic Social Justice Series No 51)
    Book Chapter
    Gillian Triggs (2004) Creative Conflict Resolution: The Timor Sea Treaty between Australia and East Timor
    Book Section
    Gillian Triggs (2004) Creative Conflict Resolution: The Timor Sea Treaty between Australia and East Timor
    Resource
    Department of Foreign Affairs, Canberra (1974) Agreement between the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and the Government of the Republic of Indonesia Establishing Certain Seabed Boundaries in the Area of the Timor and Arafura Seas, Supplementary to the Agreement of 18 May 1971
    Australian Government Publishing Service (1995) Treaty between Australia and the Republic of Indonesia on the Zone of Cooperation in an Area between the Indonesian Province of East Timor and Northern Australia [Timor Gap Treaty]
    (1997) Treaty between the Government of Australia and the Government of the Republic of Indonesia establishing an Exclusive Economic Zone Boundary and Certain Seabed Boundaries (Perth, 14 March 1997)
    (2002) Timor Sea Treaty between the Government of East timor and the government of Australia

    Documents

    Map
    East Timor Gap Map - ( Image | Thumbnail)

    Glossary

    Treaty

    Google
    Top of page

    Was this useful? Click here to fill in the ATNS survey