The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and the Submerged Lands Act are discussed. More importantly the leasing and operating regulations for the submerged lands of the outer continental shelf are analyzed in some detail. Geological considerations are used to propound the theory that rather than use the depth formula of 100 fathoms for measuring the continental shelf, it is preferable to place the boundary at the outer margin of the continental shelf or continental borderlands and refer this line to fixed points tied to the primary geodetic net of the littoral continent.
The influence of international law with respect to offshore oil operation sis treated. The test of reasonableness is applied not only to the freedom of the seas doctrine of international law but to the regulations controlling offshore drilling operations.
Great areas of legal uncertainty were filled by the passage of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and the Submerged Lands Act by the Congress in 1953. More recently, May 8, 1954, the promulgation of Leasing and Operating Regulations for the Outer Continental Shelf served to further clarify the hazy legal areas. These laws and regulations, instead of being obstacles have become useful instruments to the industry. Where there was justifiable hesitation before, there is now excited activity to hasten offshore oil exploration.
I am certain that those of you whose companies are engaged in this type of operation have found that there still remains a considerable area for improvement in the laws. In other words, things are still far from perfect. The imperfections of the law will constitute no delaying factor to the virile spirit of the industry.
On March 10, 1778, Captain William Bligh wrote in the ship's log: "In the forenoon, we struck sounding at 83 fathoms depth off the coast of Argentine, this I concluded to be near the edge of the bank."
Joseph M. G. Ravenal, the French diplomat, who had much to do with the Treaty of 1783 between the United States and Great Britain, wrote in 1803:"The sea which washes the shore of the state is deemed to form a part thereof. We could add that the bottom of the sea along the coast can be considered as having formed a part of the continent and is therefore still considered as forming such a part."