On 3 February, the UN International Court of Justice ruled that Snake Island was not part of the shoreline and therefore, in the dispute between Ukraine and Romania concerning the maritime border delimitation and the division of the shelf, it could not be considered as the outermost point of Ukrainian territory. The verdict is favourable for Romania, because as a consequence it will be accorded 80% of the disputed area, which holds a major portion (around 70%) of the shelf's substantial oil and gas reserves.
Dating back to the collapse of the USSR, the dispute between Romania and Ukraine over Snake Island on the Black Sea concerned its status, namely whether it was an island, as claimed by the Ukrainians, or a rock, as in the opinion of the Romanians. Resolving this issue was of key importance for delimiting the line separating the two countries' exclusive economic zones on the continental shelf, which is estimated to hold up to 100 m3 billion of gas and up to 10 million tons of oil. Hosting a Ukrainian border post and a population of around one hundred, the island itself remains under the jurisdiction of Ukraine.
The Court's verdict, under which Snake Island cannot be regarded as part of Ukraine's territory, means that it cannot be taken into account in the delimitation of exclusive economic zones. This interpretation is more favourable for Romania. However, oil and gas extraction will require co-operation between both parties. Major global energy companies including BP have already expressed interest in developing the deposits. <abalc, AnG>