Sovereign rights in Exclusive economic zones and Continental shelves are functionally limited to the economic exploitation of these zones. Moreover, in the case of disputed maritime zones these sovereign rights are neither exclusive nor necessarily constant. Nevertheless, states are still expected to provide the investments established in these zones the same treatment they should provide in their territories where they exercise full and constant sovereignty. If a host state agrees to the establishment of an investment in a maritime zone that become later contested, do the occurrence of the contestation and the hazards arising from such contestation relief the host state from its contractual and treaty obligations toward the investment by virtue of the force majeure concept. This thesis argues that a traditional interpretation of the force majeure concept in respect of investment agreements and contracts, hampers states ability to de-escalate their maritime disputes, diminishes its capacity to conclude delimitation agreements and reduces the promotion of the UNCLOS III as well as its mechanisms for disputes settlement. It proposes a contextualist interpretation of the force majeure concept that is adapted to the exploitation of disputed maritime zones and states obligations under the international law of the sea. First, it examines the concept of force majeure as a doctrinal hypothesis and its applications in international contracts and international investment agreements. Second, it analyzes the legal act of maritime contestation as a force majeure event according to the possible interpretations of the concept of “force majeure”. Finally, it examines the most recurrent legal hazards susceptible of arising out of a contestation; provisional orders and unfavorable delimitation.


School of Global Affairs and Public Policy


Law Department

Degree Name

LLM in International and Comparative Law

Graduation Date


Submission Date

May 2019

First Advisor

Skouteris, Thomas

Committee Member 1

Beckett, Jason

Committee Member 2

Hussein, Dalia


63 p.

Document Type

Master's Thesis


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Available for download on Tuesday, September 19, 2023