Protecting Offshore Energy Installations under International Law of the Sea - Chapter 8 - Natural Resources and the Law of the Sea - International Law Institute Series on International Law, Arbitration and Practice, Volume 2
Thousands of installations and platforms have been erected in areas within and beyond the territorial sea, mostly to explore and exploit natural resources. Offshore oil and gas production is the world’s biggest marine industry and an extremely important source of energy. At the same time, due to their isolation and distance from shore, offshore platforms are difficult to protect and thus extremely vulnerable to the threat of terrorist attacks. Imagine for a moment the scenario of terrorists reaching the platform aboard a vessel and attacking the platform, either by boarding and planting explosives aboard, or by ramming the platform with their vessel. It goes without saying that such a terrorist attack may have potentially devastating effects, both economic and environmental. Such concerns were at their height in the wake of the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001 and they still loom large.
In addition, recent cases, such as the Arctic Sunrise incident, where the Russian Federation arrested Greenpeace activists and seized their vessel after a peaceful protest against an oil platform in the Arctic Sea, highlight the growing issue of environmental protest at sea and the lingering controversy about the extent to which coastal States can exercise jurisdiction around their installations. The incident has attracted significant public attention, largely as a result of Greenpeace’s media campaign calling for the release of the so-called “Arctic 30.” With the release of the crew in December 2013, public attention waned but the legal proceedings initiated by the Netherlands continued. The Arbitral Award on the Merits of the case was issued in August 2015 and addressed a host of interesting legal questions which will inform our analysis further on. In any event, as human activities multiply in the oceans, similar environmental protests are expected to occur in the future.