Australia and Indonesia’s neighbour, East Timor, have just signed a new maritime boundary agreement which sets the Timor Sea boundary on the median line between the two countries, giving East Timor sovereignty over a much larger share of the Greater Sunrise oil and gas field than Australia’s preferred option of a maritime seabed border on the edge of Australia’s continental shelf, a mere 50 nautical miles from East Timor’s coast.
However, following the 1997 Australia-Indonesia Maritime Delimitation Treaty, Australia considers that with Indonesia, unlike East Timor, it has two maritime borders:
- a seabed border situated on the edge of Australia’s continental shelf which means that all the resources found on the seabed within this area belong to Australia, and
- a median line maritime border which determines ownership of the resources in the sea itself.
Since Indonesia never ratified the 1997 treaty, and now that East Timor has succeeded in negotiating a single median line boundary, commentators wonder if Indonesia will not wish to re-open negotiations to obtain a single median line border and the oil and gas revenues that would go with it.