The Grisbådarna Case

The Grisbådarna Case, Norway v Sweden, Award, (1909) XI RIAA 155, (1910) XVII RGDIP 177, ICGJ 404 (PCA 1909), 23rd October 1909, Permanent Court of Arbitration [PCA]; Ad Hoc – Geneva

On October 26, 1661, Sweden and Norway concluded a treaty to demarcate their maritime boundary. Subsequently, uncertainties arose surrounding parts of the boundary. In 1897, Sweden and Norway appointed commissioners to establish the exact course of the boundary line. The commissioners found that the parties were in agreement as to that part of the boundary from the interior of the Idefjord up to a point in the territorial waters known as point XVIII. The Swedish and Norwegian commissioners could not agree on the boundary line beyond point XVIII. The disputed area included certain important fishing banks called the Grisbådarna and the Skjöttegrunde.

On March 14, 1908 the parties submitted their dispute to arbitration and mandated the Tribunal to determine the boundary from point XVIII to the limit of the territorial waters. In particular, the Tribunal was asked: (1) to decide whether and to which extent the boundary line had been fixed by the 1661 treaty and the map annexed thereto; and (2), in sofar as the boundary line had not been so fixed, to determine the boundary in accordance with the factual circumstances and the principles of international law. The Tribunal delimited the boundary accordingly. In its decision, the Tribunal responded in the negative to the question whether the complete boundary line had been fixed by the 1661 treaty. The boundary line fixed by the Tribunal after reviewing the evidence and considering the applicable principles of international law resulted in the assignment of Grisbådarna to Sweden and Skjöttegrunde to Norway. The Tribunal found that this result was in perfect harmony with the factual circumstances notably with respect to the use of the fisheries and the placing of buoys, stating that “in the law of nations, it is a well established principle that it is necessary to refrain as far as possible from modifying the state of things existing in fact and for a long time”. 

Award or other decision

Award of the Tribunal download | 23 October 1909 | English | 150.65KB

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