Under the Exclusive Economic Zone and the Continental Shelf Laws 2004 and 2014,1 Cyprus has sovereign rights over the exploration, exploitation, conservation and management of natural resources, the waters overlying the seabed, the seabed, the subsoil and other activities relating to the exploration and exploitation of its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, as well as jurisdiction over the establishment and use of artificial islands, installations and structures there.
Article 11 empowers the Council of Ministers to issue regulations to implement the law, including regulations regarding the establishment and operation of safety zones around any such artificial islands, installations and structures.
On 9 January 2019 the Regulatory Administrative Act (5132/2019) was published in the Official Gazette, promulgating the Ministerial Order on Safety Zones (1/2019) for the purposes of ensuring the safety of the Stena IceMax drillship and the safety of navigation during the period that it will be used for drilling in Cyprus's exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.
The order established a safety zone at a distance of 500 metres from the drillship, which came into effect on 9 January 2019. Unless a vessel has the requisite licence issued by the Deputy Ministry of Shipping, it cannot enter, navigate or remain within the safety zone except for the purposes of rescuing people or property, or due to dangerous weather, or when the vessel concerned is in danger or is under the control of Cyprus.
Licences are issued solely for specified purposes, including providing services to the drillship including inspection and maintenance, undertaking scientific research, laying, inspecting, maintaining or removing any submarine pipeline in or near the safety zone or satisfying any requirement relating to the drillship at the request of its authorised personnel. The order specifies the fees and procedures for the issue of licences. Applications must be submitted at least five days in advance, otherwise the fees will be doubled. Non-compliance with the terms of a licence renders it liable to cancellation.
The order also sets out the procedures for the communication of the safety zone restrictions to maritime traffic, and for averting, monitoring and reporting actual or potential violations of the safety zone. The Cyprus maritime and security authorities and the drillship itself are responsible for monitoring. They are required to inform any potentially infringing vessel and instruct it to end the infringement and report the facts to the Deputy Ministry of Shipping and the attorney general.
1 Laws 64(I)/2004 and 97(I)/2014.
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