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OCT. 8, 2020

President Piñera announces international claim to underwater territory between Rapa Nui and the continent: “We are going to take an important step towards protecting our sovereignty.”

Chile will submit a report to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) that concludes that the extended continental shelf of the Province of Easter Island could stretch over 350 nautical miles and reach up to 700 miles.

On Thursday, President of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, announced that Chile will lay claim to the extended continental shelf of the Province of Easter Island, which includes the islands of Rapa Nui and Salas y Gómez.

The result of years of work, this is the first report that Chile will submit to the United Nations in the context of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, which concludes that the extended continental shelf of the Province of Easter Island could exceed 350 miles and stretch as far as 700 nautical miles. This is equivalent to the total surface area of the territory between Arica and Puerto Aysén.

In the report, Chile claims sovereign rights to an extended continental shelf of over 550,000 km2. 

“Following the tradition of all of the previous administrations, ours has paid ongoing rigorous attention to the protection of our sovereignty and territorial integrity. This is not only the duty of any government, but it is also a practice that allows us to better meet our obligation to protect our people, our nature and our environment,” said the President. He was accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Andrés Allamand, Interior Minister Víctor Pérez, Defense Minister Mario Desbordes, Environment Minister Carolina Schmidt and Science Minister Andrés Couve.

The continental shelf is the underwater continuation of the continent and covers all of the submerged territory located within 200 marine miles of the coast. In exceptional cases like Chile, countries are authorized by international law to claim an extended continental shelf beyond those 200 miles as their own.

The report is the result of scientific studies conducted by the Chilean Navy beginning in 2009, yielding bathymetry data that were key to the nation’s claims. This process lasted seven years and concluded in 2016, when the processed information was submitted to the Continental Shelf Unit of the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s Borders Directorate.

“Today we are taking an important new step that continues the valuable legacy of the generations that preceded us to protect our sovereignty over the continental shelf,” President Piñera declared.