North Sea Continental Shelf cases

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North Sea Continental Shelf
International Court of Justice Seal.svg
CourtInternational Court of Justice
Full case nameNorth Sea Continental Shelf (Federal Republic of Germany/Netherlands)
DecidedFebruary 20, 1969 (1969-02-20)
Case opinions
Declaration attached to Judgment: Muhammad Zafrulla Khan

Declaration attached to Judgment: César Bengzon
Separate Opinion: Philip Jessup
Separate Opinion: President José Bustamante y Rivero
Separate Opinion: Luis Padilla Nervo
Separate Opinion: Fouad Ammoun
Dissenting Opinion: Vice President Vladimir Koretsky
Dissenting Opinion: Kōtarō Tanaka
Dissenting Opinion: Gaetano Morelli
Dissenting Opinion: Manfred Lachs

Dissenting Opinion: Max Sørensen (ad hoc for The Netherlands)
Court membership
Judges sittingJosé Bustamante y Rivero (President)
Vladimir Koretsky (Vice President)
Sir Gerald Fitzmaurice
Kōtarō Tanaka
Philip Jessup
Gaetano Morelli
Muhammad Zafrulla Khan
Luis Padilla Nervo
Isaac Forster
Andre Gros
Fouad Ammoun
César Bengzon
Petrén Sture Petrén
Manfred Lachs
Mosler (ad hoc for Germany)
Max Sørensen (ad hoc for The Netherlands)

Germany v Denmark and the Netherlands [1969] ICJ 1 (also known as The North Sea Continental Shelf cases) were a series of disputes that came to the International Court of Justice in 1969. They involved agreements among Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands regarding the "delimitation" of areas—rich in oil and gas—of the continental shelf in the North Sea.


Exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of the North Sea

Germany's North Sea coast is concave, while the Netherlands' and Denmark's coasts are convex. If the delimitation had been determined by the equidistance rule ("drawing a line each point of which is equally distant from each shore"), Germany would have received a smaller portion of the resource-rich shelf relative to the two other states. Thus Germany argued that the length of the coastlines be used to determine the delimitation.[1] Germany wanted the ICJ to apportion the Continental Shelf to the proportion of the size of the state's adjacent land and not by the rule of equidistance.


The Court ultimately urged the parties to "abat[e] the effects of an incidental special feature [Germany's concave coast] from which an unjustifiable difference of treatment could result." In subsequent negotiations, the states granted to Germany most of the additional shelf it sought.[2] The cases are viewed as an example of "equity praeter legem"—that is, equity "beyond the law"—when a judge supplements the law with equitable rules necessary to decide the case at hand.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Janis, Mark W., An Introduction to International Law, 4th ed. (New York: Aspen, 2003), 73.
  2. ^ 1969 I.C.J. Reports 4, 50.
  3. ^ Janis, Introduction, 70.