The key challenge for developed coastal states working towards a submission for an extended continental shelf remains the collection and interpretation of scientific evidence needed to support their conclusions. States with the means to develop large scale initiatives have invested many resources into getting the job done. Developing states and small island developing states (SIDS), however, face great challenges in addressing this issue as many lack the institutional and financial capacity so readily available to richer nations. With the impending May 2009 submission deadline affecting most of these states, a different "rush" has ensued; one that is dedicated to ensuring that no state gets left behind in this historical process.
The UNEP Shelf Programme is the access point to a collaboration of international organisations with expertise in marine geosciences and maritime law. It was established in response to a United Nations resolution, stating that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), working through the Global Resource Information Database (GRID) system, should work in conjunction with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC) and the International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO), to store and handle research data from the outer continental margin, with a view to serving the needs of coastal States, and in particular developing states and small island developing States, in their compliance with article 76.
The Programme, implemented by UNEP/GRID-Arendal, is assisting numerous states in Africa, the South Pacific and Latin America. The Programme is mostly dedicated to facilitate developing state’s access to public marine geoscientific data through a One Stop Data Shop (OSDS) compiled by the Programme during the last 4 years. In addition, the Programme provides technical and practical training and advice to the national teams working in the delineation projects. The Programme strives to increase its effectiveness when training national teams by organizing multistate training workshops targeting large regions.
The OSDS has made agreements with the major marine geoscientific data holders to allow for distribution of data to states on a request basis. The OSDS collects digital data (e.g. multibeam bathymetry, seismic data, borehole data) and provides a service for the handling of analogue data including seismic reflection and refraction datasets. Metadata and navigational tracklines of international marine surveys are freely available for assessment and project planning. The OSDS has developed new filters for formatting data so they can all be imported and exported into the relevant interpretation tool that a state chooses to use. The outputs of the OSDS are designed to be importable into any GIS and/or RDB (relational database).
To date, several states have made use of the OSDS during variable stages of their submission process.