An agreement was signed this morning at the Treasury Building in Port Louis between the Mauritius-Seychelles Joint Commission on the Extended Continental Shelf and Spectrum ASA in view of conducting a geotechnical study in the extended continental shelf management area of the Mascarene region, as part of the joint jurisdiction between Mauritius and Seychelles for an additional area of 396,000 km2 on the Mascarene Plateau.

The Joint Commission had issued a call for tenders for an exploratory study in the area in order to understand and explore the area for its potential for oil and gas. The two-year study will comprise detailed sea-band imagery and provide high quality seismic data to better understand the geology of the area. These data will eventually be of interest to oil and gas companies. According to the Department for Continental Shelf, Maritime Zones Administration and Exploration which operates under the aegis of the Prime Minister's Office, Mauritius and Seychelles wish to open the area to oil exploration.

The signature ceremony was held in the presence of Dr Reza Badal, Coordinator of the Mauritius-Seychelles Joint Commission, and Mr Graham Mayhew, Executive Vice President of Multi-Client Africa, Mediterranean & Middle East at Spectrum ASA. Were also present during the signing ceremony, Mr N. Ballah, Secretary to Cabinet and Head of Civil Service, and Mr Philippe Michaud, Special Adviser to the Vice-President of Seychelles.

In his address, Mr Ballah highlighted the need for both Mauritius and Seychelles to work as partners to unlock shared potential. He underscored that the Governments of both countries are leaving no stone unturned to unlock the economic potential of its ocean resources while adding that substantial amount of work has already been done such as the setting up of the institutional framework.

For his part, Mr Philippe Michaud highlighted that since 2012, both Mauritius and Seychelles have achieved important milestones as regards the joint management of the extended Mauritius-Seychelles continental shelf. The signing of the contract with Spectrum ASA for the geotechnical survey in the area, he said, represents an important landmark event. He expressed confidence that 2018 will be a crucial year for the Joint Management Authority (JMA) which will be called to build a better and brighter future for the people of Mauritius and Seychelles.

Project with the UNDP

A second agreement was signed today as regards the implementation of a joint database system that will facilitate the management of the joint area. It was done by Ms Christine Umutoni, UNDP Resident Coordinator and Dr Reza Badal, Coordinator of the Mauritius-Seychelles Joint Commission.

The project, which is supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Joint Commission, amounts to US $ 17 million. It will be partially funded, up to US $ 2.2 million, by the Global Environment Facility. Spread over five years, the project will assist in marine spatial planning for the Joint Commission while enabling both countries to better communicate and exchange data in the joint area.

New opportunities for cooperation between Mauritius and Seychelles

In December 2008, Mauritius and Seychelles, both parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, made a joint submission to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) for an extended continental shelf beyond their respective 200 nautical miles of Exclusive Economic Zones in the region of the Mascarene Plateau. The area comprises a vast extent of seabed and underlying marine subsoil of approximately 396 000 km2.

The CLCS appointed a sub-commission that examined the joint submission in 2009. Following extensive deliberations, the CLCS made its recommendations in March 2011 which resulted in Mauritius and Seychelles being jointly conferred the jurisdiction upon the joint area of extended continental shelf of 396 000 km2.

This area lies beyond the boundaries of the two countries' exclusive economic zones, which opens the door to new opportunities for cooperation between the two countries, especially in terms of seabed resources with oil and gas, mineral deposits and living marine organisms.

To translate this cooperation into reality, two treaties were signed in March 2012 during the visit to Mauritius of the President of Seychelles who was the guest of honour at the National Day celebrations. The first pertains to the joint exercise of sovereign rights by Mauritius and Seychelles on the continental shelf. The second deals with the management of the seabed of the continental shelf. It defines the modalities for exploration and exploitation of the living and non-living resources of the continental shelf, while providing a favorable framework for both countries to jointly and fairly manage the continental shelf.

13th meeting of the Joint Commission

Since then, Mauritius and Seychelles have been working on the legal and institutional framework to enable activities in relation to marine resources. A Joint Commission has also been established, which is supported by a technical committee and is under the supervision of a ministerial council. Several documents have been developed including the Model Petroleum Agreement, the Environment Code of Practice, the Offshore Petroleum Safety Code, and the Joint Tax and Taxation Code. Since the treaty was established, the Joint Commission meets every year. This year, it is meeting for the 13th time and the meeting coincides with the signing of the agreement today.

During this meeting, which will be co-chaired by the Secretary to Cabinet and Head of the Civil Service, a strategic plan for the joint management of the area will be finalised.

Source: Government of Mauritius