Maritime boundaries between Norway and Sweden

The territorial sea boundary between Norway and Sweden also has a long history having been delimited through an arbitral award of 23 October 1909 following earlier agreements in 1661, 1897 and 1904. By virtue of a compromise signed on March 14, 1908, Norway and Sweden decided to submit to arbitration the question of the maritime boundary between the two countries, insofar as it was not settled by the Resolution royal of March 15, 1904 . The Tribunal constituted for the purposes of this arbitration was called upon to decide whether the frontier line had been fixed either entirely or in part by the Treaty of 1661, and if not, to fix this line taking into account the circumstances of fact and principles of international law. It was composed as follows: Mr. JA Loeff, from the Netherlands; MFVN Beichmann, from Norway, and MK Hj. L. Hammarskjôld, from Sweden. Alone, the latter was a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. The Tribunal sat from August 28 to October 18, 1909, and meanwhile visited the disputed area. He rendered his award dated October 23, 1909. By this award, the Tribunal determined the maritime boundary between Norway and Sweden, in application of the principles in force in the two countries at the time of the conclusion of the original delimitation treaty. and in view of several long-standing factual circumstances. Settlement of the question of the maritime boundary between Norway and Sweden – Competence of the Tribunal determined by the interpretation of the Compromis – Maritime territory as essential appurtenance of land territory a fundamental principle of International Law – Median lineThalweg – Historic title.

The Continental Shelf Boundary (CSB) encompasses 5 terminal or turning points that extend for a distance of 48 nautical miles from Point 1. Point 1 marks the seaward terminus of the Norwegian-Swedish international maritime boundary, as delimited by Norwegian and Swedish agreements of 1661, 1897, 1904 and the Arbitral Award of October 23, 1909.
Article 1 of the Agreement on the Continental Shelf states that the equidistant principle is to be employed in dividing the continental shelf. However, Article 2 contains certain deviations from the equidistant principle which are employed to obtain a practical drawing of the five pertinent points and connecting lines. Therefore, the cartographic representation of the CSB on the attached map does not meet the precise requirements of the stated principle because in most instances the terminal or turning point is not equidistant from Norwegian and Swedish territory. The inaccuracy of the cartographic representation is also due partially to the use of a Mercator projection. The Mercator projection utilized in the making of hydrographic charts has appreciable distortion of scale in the higher latitudes.

Of note is the fact that points 4 and 5 extend beyond the continental shelf at distances of 13 and 15 nautical miles, respectively. The depths of these two points exceed 100 fathoms by a significant amount. Point 5, which is the terminal point of the CSB, appears to be equidistant from Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Sweden established an EEZ in 1993 which in the North Sea follows the previously agreed continental shelf boundary with Norway.

One of the main geometric method of constructing an equidistance line evident from state practice and case law is that of a line of bearing, that is, a line of constant compass bearing. Where this method of delimitation is employed, inevitably exclusively in relation to delimitations between adjacent states, frequently the line of bearing taken in such circumstances is one perpendicular to the general direction of the coast in order to take into account the macro-geography of the region. In effect, this represents a much simplified form of equidistance. This method of delimitation has a long history, having been used in one of the earliest maritime boundary agreements between states – that concerning the territorial sea boundary between Norway and Sweden where, following the Grisbadarna arbitration, an adjusted perpendicular to the general direction of the coast was applied. Thus, where states are adjacent to one another and boast relatively uncomplex coastlines, a line of bearing perpendicular to the general direction of the coast may represent an easy and equitable option.

Also, one of the important differences between international limits on land and sea is that the colonial powers were largely responsible for the land boundaries which today surround the states which emerged as empires disappeared. While the land boundaries inherited by the “new” states were not universally free from ambiguities, which sometimes caused serious disputes, there was, nonetheless, a fairly complete network of lines. In contrast, very few countries have inherited sea boundaries from the colonial period. However, some maritime boundaries were drawn by colonial powers, often as extensions of the land boundaries down rivers and estuaries. A notable exception to this rule was the Sweden/Norway boundary of 1909, which delimited the full extent of the parties’ territorial seas following arbitration between the two states.

Norway’s national borders
Figure 3.1 Norway’s maritime boundaries
Norway’s maritime boundaries


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