The negotiation between Italy and Malta for the delimitation of the continental shelf also started in
1965 when the two countries agreed on a provisional and spatially limited Modus Vivendi;51 but it
has not yet been concluded, although Articles 83(2) UNCLOS stipulates: ‘If no agreement can be
reached within a reasonable period of time, the states concerned shall resort to the procedures provided
for in Part XV [Settlement of Disputes]’. The Modus Vivendi was concluded in 1970 when Italy and Malta formalized the change of letters. On this partial and provisional arrangement related to the median line between Malta and Sicily within the isobath of 200 mt – so not beyond this
depth limit as instead claimed by Malta, and ‘Modus Vivendi on Continental Shelf ’.
the Central Mediterranean unilaterally claimed by Malta ignoring the Italian rights beyond the meridian 15°10’, which were indirectly recognised by the ICJ in the 1985 Malta/Libya case when it affirmed that:
‘The limits within which the Court, in order to preserve the rights of third States, will confine its decision in the present case,
may thus be defined in terms of the claims of Italy, which are precisely located on the map by means of geographical coordinates.
During the proceedings held on its application for permission to intervene, Italy stated that it considered itself to have
rights over a geographical zone delimited on the West by the meridian 15’10’ E, to the south by the parallel 34’ 30’ N, to the
east by the delimitation line agreed between Italy and Greece … and its prolongation, and to the north by the Italian coasts of
Calabria and Apulia’.
Recently, the two countries, in order to avoid the diplomatic tension related to the offshore activities carried out by Malta in the continental
shelf disputed zone, resorted to a Confidence Building Measure like the Oil Drilling Moratorium: see Fabio Caffio, ‘Informal
Agreement Between Italy, Malta on Moratorium Offshore Sicily’.
The continental shelf represents the seabed and subsoil of the submarine area that extends beyond Malta’s territorial waters. The outer limit of Malta’s continental shelf is based on the median line in areas in which no agreement has been reached between Malta and neighbouring States. In 1970, through an exchange of Note Verbales, Italy and Malta agreed that the provisional delimitation between the northern coast of Malta and the southern coast of Sicily will be based on the median line. In 1987, Malta ratified an agreement delimiting an area of the continental shelf between Libya and Malta (south of Malta) following the judgement of the International Court of Justice in 1985.