In international law, the high seas are open to a country for fishing as well as travel and all nations have equal rights on the high seas, and each must respect the rights of other nations. During war, international law allows belligerents to continue trading with other neutral nations, and with belligerents. These times, ships of neutral countries are supposed to transport commerce prohibited in war, (illegal goods), and belligerent countries decide which items to consider war contraband.
There is a long debate between countries about the law of the sea. Between 1986 and 1982, the United Nations issued the laws of the sea, which may satisfy all countries. This work led to the adoption of the Law of the Sea Convention in 1982. More than 100 member states of the United Nations system have signed the convention. This agreement does not become official until 60 countries ratify it
In general, this agreement gives countries the exclusive rights to explore for oil and gas up to a distance of 350 nautical miles (665 km) from the coast, and to fish within 200 nautical miles (380 km) from their coasts, and within these two hundred nautical miles, which is called the region.
Exclusive economic, all countries have high seas rights for navigation and aviation, but coastal states control all economic resources in this region. Most countries agree that the mining right is not considered part of maritime freedom, but that right can be established by treaty provisions. For this, the agreement did not become effective until 1994. Among the countries that did not ratify were the US and Canada. Although most of the texts of the treaty are already followed now.
In August 2020, Egypt signed an agreement to demarcate the maritime borders with Greece, as part of Cairo’s plans to benefit from the wealth of the Mediterranean.
During the signing of the agreement, the exclusive economic zones between the two countries were designated as a first step, and the decision to demarcate the borders with Libya, which was published in the Official Gazette, came in order to preserve the gas wealth in the Mediterranean region, amid the successive discoveries of oil companies.
Sources in one of the concerned international bodies confirmed that after the official announcement of the demarcation of the maritime borders, the next step is to prepare and equip areas within the Egyptian borders for offering to international companies for oil and gas exploration operations.
The sources pointed out that the eastern Mediterranean region enjoys great interest from international oil companies, due to the huge gas reserves that it embraces, in addition to its proximity to the most important consumption regions (Europe), seeking to diversify supplies away from Russia.
The reserves of the Mediterranean basin are estimated at more than 200 trillion cubic feet of gas, and what has been discovered so far represents only 10%. Egypt is working to increase natural gas production and encourage international companies to implement oil and gas exploration projects, as part of its efforts to become a regional energy center.
Before the end of the year, Egypt settled the file of demarcating its maritime borders, by a presidential decision drawing the western borders in the Mediterranean, after similar steps during the past years with Saudi Arabia, Cyprus and Greece.
President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi stated the importance of the maritime border demarcation agreement between Egypt and “Cyprus and Greece” in the Mediterranean Sea and Saudi Arabia in the Red Sea. President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi indicated that the Zohr natural gas field would not have been discovered had the borders not been demarcated, in addition to the fact that these agreements provided $120 billion annually for the operation of power plants.
President El-Sisi said, “If it were not for the demarcation of the maritime borders, the exploration companies would not have been able to work in these areas, and Thank God it was great for us to discover the Zohr field, and without it, Egypt would have been in darkness, because we do not have the savings of $ 2 billion per month at the old gas prices to operate power stations.” As for the prices, the current cost may reach $10 billion per month to purchase the gas required to operate power plants in Egypt, so that electricity is not cut off.
In April 2016, an agreement was signed to delineate the maritime borders between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, during the visit of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to Egypt. This agreement consisted of three articles, namely:
“The maritime border line between Egypt and Saudi Arabia starts from the common meeting point of the Egyptian, Saudi, and Jordanian maritime borders in the Gulf of Aqaba, which will be agreed upon later between the three countries. The maritime border line between the two countries extends from the joint meeting point of the maritime borders mentioned in Paragraph (1) of this Article to the point of the marine border line No. (61) according to the geographical coordinates of the following points of the border line between the two countries: The World Geodetic System 84 (84-wgs) is the reference for the geographical coordinates of the marine boundary line points mentioned in this article.”
“Attached to this agreement is a map compiled from the British Admiralty maps No. (158) and No. (159) on a scale of (1:750000) signed by both countries, showing the maritime border line between them. This map is for illustration only. The main reference for the border line between the two countries shall be the geographical coordinates of the locations of the points of the maritime border line mentioned in Article 1 of this agreement.”
“This agreement shall be ratified in accordance with the legal and constitutional procedures in both countries, and shall enter into force from the date of exchange of ratification documents. The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall be notified of this agreement for registration in accordance with the provisions of Article (102) of the Charter of the United Nations after its entry into force.”