Ireland Seeks to Quantify Its Offshore Natural Resources

Published at 03:14PM - 27/10/14

The Irish government is measuring up its coastal resources with a view to re-assessing its claim to Atlantic waters rich in gas and oil. The work will involve taking exacting measurements of Irish waters for the first time in nearly sixty years. The measurements are being gathered from fifty identified coastal points, including a section of the controversial Rockall Bank, where ownership is disputed.

Called Operation Baseline, the work will be used for charting an increasingly accurate series of maritime maps and also be used to support the country’s claims to the UKCS, located as far as 350 miles away from shore.

The Air Corps has been winching project geographers safely to some of Ireland’s most inaccessible islands and headlands along the shore to assess co-ordinates and re-take measurements that were last gathered in 1959 for the UN. The fifty locations are being marked permanently with brass plates by the Ordnance Survey Ireland team, who are using cutting-edge GPS technology to support the operation. The Navy has remained on standby during the operation.

An official from the country’s Foreign Affairs department said that the new findings would allow the country to have an accurate record of its seas and shore resources. These new maritime co-ordinates will provide a more accurate view of the country’s ownership zones. The spokesperson confirmed that the drivers behind greater mapping accuracy were primarily related to hydrocarbon exploration and licensing, as well as law enforcement.

The most northern measured spot is off Malin Head at the Scart Rocks. The western area includes Black Rock Lighthouse, located off Mayo, and to the south the limits are Wexford’s Carnsore Point and Cork’s Cape Clear. Kerry’s Blasket Islands are also included.

Ireland owns twelve miles of sea as well as a 200-mile exclusive economic zone. Additional claims are being assessed for the continental shelf that includes Rockall Bank. Ireland’s Geological Survey suggests that the country’s waters extend to an area potentially larger than the North Sea itself, at over 898,000 square kilometres.

The country has never claimed to have ownership of the extinct volcano at Rockall Black, but it has previously made some claims for a portion of the sea bed around it, which is potentially rich in oil resources. Located 500 nautical miles from Ireland’s shore, it is more commonly known as Hatton-Rockall. Although the claim is recognised by the UK, it is not agreed by the Faroe Islands.

Ireland has also been successful in claiming an additional 39,000 square kilometres of coastal sea bed located off the west coast. A claim for part of the Bay of Biscay and the Celtic Sea are also currently being negotiated with the UK, Spain and France.

A further fifteen measurement points will be taken over the coming weeks as part of Operation Baseline. Once the results are in, legal processes for claims and ownership may rapidly follow, as the country’s government seeks to benefit from potentially rich sources of gas and oil within their newly confirmed waters.

Last updated on 12:41PM - 05/11/14