Legal Advisers – Legal Information Group
King Charles Street
8 March 2012
E-mail: [FOI #97923 email]
Dear J Nelson, FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000 REQUEST REF:
Thank you for your recent enquiry under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“FOIA”). In
your email you requested to know the following information:
i) What is the current administrative status of the Islet of Rockall?
ii) What is the current administrative status of the underlying maritime shelf of the
iii) What is the current administrative status of territorial waters and other claims (such
as airspace) surrounding Rockall?
iv) Are there any plans to settle the on-going issues regarding the disputes surrounding
Rockall with the other nations involved, Denmark (on behalf of the Faroe Islands),
Iceland and the Republic of Ireland (Éire)?and if so by what date and by what method
(e.g. multilateral treaty, international arbitration, etc.)?
v) What is the current legal status of Rockall under United Kingdom Law?
vi) What is the current legal status of Rockall under the Law of the Kingdom of
vii) What is the current legal status of Rockall under the Law of the Republic of Iceland?
viii) What is the current legal status of Rockall under Éire Law?
ix) What is the current legal status of Rockall under European Union Law?
x) What is the current legal status of Rockall under International Law?
The islet of Rockall is part of the UK: specifically it forms part of Scotland under the Island of
Rockall Act 1972. No other state has disputed our claim to the islet.
Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), coastal states are entitled to
claim certain maritime zones around their coast, within which they have different rights and
obligations. UNCLOS states that a rock or islet, such as Rockall, that cannot sustain human
habitation or economic life of its own is not entitled to an exclusive economic zone or a
continental shelf, but is entitled to a territorial sea. The UK claims a 12 nautical mile
territorial sea around Rockall, which merges with a 200 nautical mile Extended Fishery Zone,
200 nm continental shelf and other zones, draw from baselines on the west coast of the
Western Islands, off the mainland coast of Scotland. This 200 nm zone is not disputed.
The UK has agreed maritime boundaries with the Irish to the south and Denmark, on behalf
of the Faeroe Islands to the north.
Under UNCLOS coastal states are permitted to claim an extended continental shelf beyond
200 nm if it can be demonstrated that the seabed and subsoil fit certain criteria. Claims for
extended continental shelves are to be submitted to the Commission on the Limits of the
Continental Shelf. The UK, Ireland and Denmark, on behalf of the Faeroes, have all made
submissions to the Commission relating to areas of the Rockall Bank and Hatton Rockall
Plateau. Iceland has also made a claim but not yet formally submitted to the Commission.
Informal negotiations between the four parties as to how to delimit the area subject to
counter-claims have been on-going for some years. There is no prescribed date by which to
conclude negotiations or to decide whether to sort to alternative methods to resolves the
dispute e.g. arbitration.
Finally, UNCLOS states that sovereignty extends to the air space over the territorial sea.
Under the Territorial Sea Act 1987 the UK has claimed a territorial sea of up to 12 nm from
all its territory and so there exists a circle of UK sovereign airspace over the islet of Rockall.
Beyond that limit it is international air space.
Your questions relating to the legal status of Rockall under the law of other States and the
European Union are not for this Government to answer. You would need to address the
relevant governments or authority.
I hope you are satisfied with this reply. However, if you would like a review of our decision or
if you wish to make a complaint, please write to the Information Rights Team at The Old
Admiralty Building, Room SG 120, London, SW1A 2PA. E-mail: [FCO request email].
You have 40 working days to do so from the date this letter.
If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint, you may then apply directly to the
Information Commissioner for a decision. Generally, the Information Commissioner cannot
make a decision unless you have exhausted the complaints procedure provided by the FCO.
The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information Commissioner's Office,
Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.
We continually strive to improve our service, so we would welcome your feedback and
comments. If you would like to provide feedback on our service, please email our
Information Rights Team, again at: [FCO request email]
You can also find out more about the FCO and freedom of information issues at our Access
to Information website: http://foi.fco.gov.uk/en
Yours sincerely, S Kay
Office Management Section
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