South Africa is on the verge of claiming an additional zone to its existing territory called the Extended Continental Shelf (ECS). The ECS is that portion of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from shore. If the claim proves successful, it will open up new territory for research and exploration.
South Africa has made two submissions to the United Nations in May 2009. The first submission relates to the continental shelf surrounding the South African mainland, whilst the second submission relates to the region of the Prince Edwards Islands. The claims amount to approximately 1.87 million square kilometres ranks amongst the 10th largest claims in the world and if endorsed by the United Nations, will more than double South Africa’s maritime territory.
The project has many benefits for South Africa. These include the potential for mineral resources including oil and gas, manganese nodules and crusts possibly enriched with precious metals, exploiting the pharmaceutical and medical benefits of microbes associated with the inhospitable ultra-deep ocean floor and toxic hot water geysers. Many of these benefits are not immediately quantifiable with current knowledge and technology, but through the success of the project, access to these could be assured for the coming generations of South Africans. Additionally, the project has the potential to contribute to the realisation of the vision of the National Development Plan and supports the New Growth Plan.