Continental Shelf Department

The main role of the Continental Shelf Department is to attract investment in the Malta upstream oil and gas sector with the aim of exploring for natural resources in a safe and environmentally sustainable manner. Apart from regulating and promoting the upstream oil and gas sector, the Department is also responsible for regulating other activities on Malta’s continental shelf such as the laying of submarine cables and pipelines, marine scientific research and the construction, operation and use of artificial islands, structures and devices.
The Department also acts as the Geological Survey of Malta and in this capacity represents Malta at meetings and expert groups of EuroGeoSurveys, a non-profit organisation made up of 37 European Geological Surveys. In this role the Department participates in EU projects on marine data such as EMODnet. The Department is also the custodian of the Geological Map of Malta and is responsible for the upkeep of this map.
The Maltese Islands are strategically located in the centre of the Mediterranean and Malta is a member of the European Union, the Euro zone and is also part of the Schengen Area. Compared to the land area of the Maltese Islands, the continental shelf is much larger and therefore the regulation of continental shelf activities is of paramount importance. 

Map showing extent of Malta's territorial waters and continental shelf
The continental shelf represents the seabed and subsoil of the submarine area that extends beyond Malta’s territorial waters. The outer limit of Malta’s continental shelf is based on the median line in areas in which no agreement has been reached between Malta and neighbouring States. In 1970, through an exchange of Note Verbales, Italy and Malta agreed that the provisional delimitation between the northern coast of Malta and the southern coast of Sicily will be based on the median line. In 1987, Malta ratified an agreement delimiting an area of the continental shelf between Libya and Malta (south of Malta) following the judgement of the International Court of Justice in 1985. 
All seabed and subsoil activities require licensing from the Continental Shelf Department whether carried out in territorial waters or on the continental Shelf. However, seabed and subsoil activities within territorial waters and in some cases also beyond these waters require permitting from other competent authorities in Malta.
The Department provides technical support to Government and other entities in connection with Malta’s sovereign rights and maritime boundaries. In 2013, the Continental Shelf Department contracted the UK Hydrographical Office Law of the Sea Section to calculate digitally Malta’s basepoints, baselines and maritime zones for use with geographic information systems. 

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​The Department