Dutch reach out across the oceans

26 May 2002

Hands across the seas: Gerrit Ybema (front, left), Minister for Foreign Trade of The Netherlands, at a recent conference on exclusive economic zones (EEZs).

THE CENTRE for Marine Studies (CMS) acted as intermediary for a recent conference on exclusive economic zones (EEZ) that featured some of the most prominent names in marine law and international trade in South Africa and the Netherlands.

The meeting on The Development of the South African Maritime Exclusive Economic Zone made up the first part of an advisory service The Netherlands Task Force on Exclusive Economic Zones hopes to offer South Africa over the next few years.

The ultimate aim of the service is to help the country develop legal systems, knowledge, skills and capacity to handle its economic exclusive zone, and to profit from its strategic use.

EEZs are inscribed in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as the areas that extend past a nation's territorial sea to a maximum of 200 nautical miles from the baseline. As such, the coastal state owns all natural riches of the sea and the seabed, has jurisdiction over artificial islands and offshore installations, and is also responsible for scientific marine research and protection of the marine environment.

According to the Centre's Emlyn Balarin, the Dutch have developed an expertise in the field of EEZs, and regularly act as consultants to other coastal nations. More recently, they approached CMS Director, Professor Geoff Brundrit, to help set up a meeting between the Dutch Task Force and role players in South Africa.

"The Dutch wanted us to bring together all those people in the know -- those involved in policy-making, in research, involved in any aspect of economic exclusive zones," said Balarin.

"Invitations were sent to industry, to government, to academic institutions, to private individuals -- pretty much anyone who had any interest."

The conference guest list included luminaries such as Carl Niehaus, former South African ambassador to the Netherlands, and Gerrit Ybema, Minister for Foreign Trade of the Netherlands. Other delegates included representatives from the Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs and the South African and Dutch navies.

It is expected that the chairpersons of the various plenary sessions will gather for a few more meetings in the near future where they will discuss the proposals that were proffered at the conference.

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