The Magellan-Antarctic continental shelf

Fulfilling the word promised in 2020, the government has just released the general guidelines of a “first presentation” on the extended continental shelf in the American Antarctic (for the purpose, Chilean Antarctica). This sector is part of our Magallanes and Chilean Antarctic Region.

This is a long-awaited event that, in itself, not only encapsulates the will of the State to reiterate – in accordance with International Law – our status as “Antarctic power”, but also evidences an updated and geopolitically refreshing approach, as well as a demonstration of the advanced geoscientific capabilities of the country.

Extraordinary and at good time !. A measurable contribution to the permanent interest of the Republic! (in an etymological sense).

Thus, the government of Chile intends to ‘submit’ to the analysis of the competent scientific-technical body (the Limits Commission of the Platform
Continental) the data and cartography that demonstrate -for now- the extension of our sovereignty beyond 200 miles over the natural resources of the marine soil and subsoil of the Bellinghausen Sea, which bathes the western sector of the Chilean Antarctic Territory.

Additionally, this presentation includes a kind of “enunciation” of the link between the areas studied with sectors of the Magellan-Antarctic continental shelf located north of parallel 60ºsur (limit of the area of ​​application of the Antarctic Treaty). The observer can understand that, in the future, this should make it possible to connect said sector of the seabed of the (misnamed) Drake Pass with the extension of the continental shelf of our islands located south of Tierra del Fuego, as it was last August legally established with the updating of the projection of the continental shelf of the Diego Ramírez and Barnevelt Islands.

Consistent with our southern and Antarctic tradition of almost 500 years, this sovereign act of the State can, in fairness, be understood as a legacy of the Piñera 2 administration, especially its last Foreign Ministers, Teodoro Ribera and Andrés Allamand. Nobility obliges.

The next government (whatever it may be) will face a task and a challenge of great complexity and scope that, in view of the increasing complexity of the geopolitical and geostrategic scenario in Antarctica, will force it to prioritize this matter of deep material meaning for the interest of all Chileans, without exception.

It so happens that, by no means, is it guaranteed that at the end of the 2040s the Antarctic Treaty (which from 1959-61 guarantees the Pax
Antarctica) can be renovated. Along with the irruption in the Antarctic decision-making system of disruptive powers (China, Russia, etc.), countries such as Australia, Argentina, Norway, France and South Africa (all founders of polar cooperation) went ahead of Chile in claiming rights over underwater territories. within the area of ​​application of the Antarctic regulations. In this area, two cases deserve comment.

The first refers to Norway, a country that, in addition to annually awarding the Nobel Peace Prize, is the only one that, so far, claims continental shelf spaces beyond 200 miles in the Arctic and Antarctic. The rights that Norway claims in Antarctica are based on the activities of its whaling companies, which, it must be remembered, are “less old” than the Chilean Antarctic fishing activities and, in the best of cases, as old as the whaling activities Magellanic in Antarctica and the circumpolar Southern Sea. Although Norway is “a champion of international cooperation”, its claim to a continental shelf in the ‘African sector’ of Antarctica (dating from 2009) continues to be ‘reviewed’ in New York by the aforementioned Commission on the Limits of the Continental platform.

The second is the case of Argentina, a country that already in 2009 formalized a presentation that included not only an ambitious Antarctic claim (which overlaps the Chilean Antarctic Territory), but also added a “crescent” of thousands of km2 located south of the so-called “Point F” of the 1984 Peace and Friendship Treaty. This aspect of the Argentine claim unilaterally extended the binational limit plus ultra said point F (which the same 1984 treaty defined as the “unshakable border” between Chile and Argentina).

Considering that the President of the Republic himself has taken care to recall that in August his government updated the official cartography of the continental shelf to the south and southeast of said “Point F”, it is possible to understand that, later on, our country imposed the task of specifying the outer limits of the Magellanic-Antarctic continental shelf beyond the 200 miles projected from the Diego Ramírez archipelagos, Cape Horn and certain “submarine elevations”. This should allow us to link these territories with the soil and subsoil of the Weddell Sea and the Bellinghausen Sea.

From now on the impact on the bilateral relationship with Argentina is evident.

A fascinating challenge for the next government.

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The Magellan-Antarctic continental shelf