Practice

Maritime & Land Boundary Disputes

Leading firm in maritime boundary cases before international courts and arbitral tribunals

Our lawyers have served as legal counsel in more maritime boundary cases before international courts and arbitral tribunals than any other firm in the world. We have helped clients achieve legal victories in maritime boundary cases before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague.

Of the nine arbitrations initiated under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Annex VII), we have been counsel in six, including for Bangladesh against India, which resulted in a favorable award for Bangladesh in 2014 and currently for Ghana against Côte d’Ivoire. We have also represented Nicaragua against Colombia and Djibouti against Eritrea.

In July 2016, our tea, won a sweeping victory against China on behalf of the Philippines regarding control of the South China Sea in an arbitration pursuant to Annex VII of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The tribunal rejected China’s claim to “historic rights” in the maritime areas encompassed by its so-called “nine-dashed line” as inconsistent with the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. The case captured global attention because it involves critical issues relating to China’s expansive claims over some 90% of the South China Sea, an area of major strategic importance through which over 50% of the world’s commercial shipping passes each year.

Likewise, in 2015, our client Mauritius won its dispute against the UK. A distinguished Arbitral Tribunal convened under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and upheld Mauritius’ rights to fishing and minerals in the waters around the strategically located islands, which include the U.S. military base on Diego Garcia. The judgment further held that the U.K.’s undertaking to return the islands to Mauritius when they are no longer required for defense purposes was a binding obligation under international law. In so deciding, the tribunal unanimously struck down a so-called Marine Protected Area adopted by the U.K. in 2010 that, it ruled, violated Mauritius’ rights under the Law of the Sea Convention.

In addition to representing Sovereign States in disputes before international courts and arbitral tribunals, we advise our sovereign clients in the negotiation of maritime law and land boundary agreements, such as Ecuador in an agreement with Peru in 2012, and consults with them confidentially in regard to entitlements and obligations under the Law of the Sea Convention and international law generally.

Based on interviews with the firm’s clients and other international practitioners, Chambers Global described our team as a “real force in international law disputes” whose clients “choose the firm because of the team’s success in representing States.” In particular: “The lawyers have thorough knowledge, outstanding written and oral advocacy, and are able to serve at all times and in all circumstances.”

Areas of Focus

Our experience includes:
  • Maritime disputes before international courts and arbitral tribunals
  • Negotiation of maritime law and land boundary agreements

Experience

  • Philippines v. China. We successfully represented the Philippines in an arbitration pursuant to Annex VII of the United Nations Convention Law of the Sea regarding maritime jurisdiction. The Tribunal rejected China’s claim to “historic rights” in the maritime areas encompassed by its so-called “nine-dashed line” as inconsistent with the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, and found that China violated the Philippines' sovereign rights under the Convention.
  • Bangladesh v. Myanmar. We successfully represented Bangladesh in this case before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea to delimit the maritime boundary between Bangladesh and Myanmar in the Bay of Bengal. The Judgment gave Bangladesh the vast majority of the disputed maritime area, as well as an extended continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.
  • Nicaragua v. Colombia (Case Concerning Territorial and Maritime Dispute). We successfully represented Nicaragua in this case before the International Court of Justice to delimit maritime boundaries in the western Caribbean Sea. Nicaragua achieved a major victory over Colombia obtaining access to the full extent of its 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, which Colombia sought to cut off at 70 nautical miles, and more than 75% of the waters claimed by both States in the Caribbean Sea.
  • Guyana v. Suriname. We successfully represented Guyana in this arbitration under the Law of the Sea Convention to delimit the maritime boundary between the two neighboring countries. Guyana was awarded the vast majority of the maritime area in dispute, including all of the area where significant oil deposits are believed to exist.
  • Croatia v. Slovenia. We represent Croatia in this arbitration, facilitated by the European Commission as part of Croatia’s accession to the European Union, to resolve disputes between the two States over their maritime and land boundaries.
  • Bangladesh v. India. We represent Bangladesh in this arbitration under the Law of Sea Convention to delimit the maritime boundary between Bangladesh and India in the Bay of Bengal.
  • Mauritius v. United Kingdom. We represent Mauritius in this arbitration under the Law of the Sea Convention to challenge the United Kingdom’s declaration of maritime zones in the Indian Ocean surrounding the Chagos Archipelago.
  • Djibouti v. Eritrea. We represent Djibouti in this mediation under the auspices of His Royal Highness the Emir of Qatar to end the border conflict between the two States and determine the land and maritime boundary.

People

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Get to know the attorneys in our Maritime & Land Boundary Disputes practice.

Diem Huong Ho

International Associate

Washington, DC

202.223.7307

Juan Pablo Hugues

International Associate

Washington, DC

202-394-6572