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Israel Work Permit (B-1) and the Exclusive Economic Zone

The Deputy Legal Advisor to the Government (Advisory and Legislation Department of the Israeli Ministry of Justice) has recently issued a Legal Opinion relating to the applicability of Israeli Law to the Exclusive Economic Zone, relating to the Continental Shelf off Israel’s territorial waters. The Opinion is designed to clarify the legal status of the Exclusive Economic Zone until the proposed Bill relating to Maritime Areas is passed y Israel’s parliament and is of great relevance to companies involved in oil and gas exploration and production.

The Opinion finds support from the United Nations Convention of the Sea (“Convention”), to which Israel is not a signatory but has accepted upon itself the leading principles of the Convention.

Under Article 3 of the Convention, every coastal state has the right to establish the breadth of its territorial sea up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles (23 km) from the shore.

Under Article 57 of the Convention, Breadth of the exclusive economic zone – of the exclusive economic zone of a coastal state is defined as not extending beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.

In practice, Israel’s exclusive economic zone stretches 130 km from the Northern corner of the shore and 204 km from the Southern corner of the shore and encompasses a very large area, including foreign shipping lanes.

 Under Article 56 – Rights, jurisdiction and duties of the coastal State in the exclusive economic zone

1. In the exclusive economic zone, the coastal State has:

(a) sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, of the waters superjacent to the seabed and of the seabed and its subsoil, and with regard to other activities for the economic exploitation and exploration of the zone, such as the production of energy from the water, currents and winds;

(b) jurisdiction as provided for in the relevant provisions of this Convention with regard to:

(i) the establishment and use of artificial islands, installations and structures;

(ii) marine scientific research;

(iii) the protection and preservation of the marine environment;

(c) other rights and duties provided for in this Convention.

 Further to Article 60 – Artificial islands, installations and structures in the exclusive economic zone

1. In the exclusive economic zone, the coastal State shall have the exclusive right to construct and to authorize and regulate the construction, operation and use of:

(a) artificial islands;

(b) installations and structures for the purposes provided for in article 56 and other economic purposes;

(c) installations and structures which may interfere with the exercise of the rights of the coastal State in the zone.

2. The coastal State shall have exclusive jurisdiction over such artificial islands, installations and structures, including jurisdiction with regard to customs, fiscal, health, safety and immigration laws and regulations.

 Accordingly, the Deputy Legal Advisor holds that Israeli law applies to the exploration, extraction and transfer of natural resources including gas and oil from the Continental Shift to the Israeli mainland, including on all related installations and structures such as oil platforms and rigs.

We believe that companies and personnel involved in oil and gas exploration in Israel’s exclusive economic zone are required to fulfill all Israeli local regulations relating to health and safety, labor law, tax, immigration and visa requirements, even in cases where workers reach oil rigs and platforms from other countries or via the sea, without actually passing Israeli border control.

 Therefore, companies that transport employees to installations via the sea and not through Israeli borders should not consider themselves exempt from applying for work permits.

 Failure to obtain work permits and/or visas unnecessarily exposes a foreign company and its personnel to legal sanctions and penalties as detailed in: http://www.dglaw.co.il/?p=118 .

For more information, please do not hesitate to contact Dan Gross at gross@dglaw.co.il