The main steps for a coastal state in the process established by article 76 of the Convention are:
Submissions can be very large. For example, some submissions filed by coastal states have weighed more than one tonne. The process can also take many years.
The Commission does not deal with areas under dispute and it does not delimit boundaries between coastal states. Delimiting boundaries is something that is done by states through negotiation or third party adjudication (eg: arbitration or submitting the matter to a court like the International Court of Justice or the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea).
Only the coastal state can determine its outer limits. The Convention provides that limits established by the coastal state on the basis of the Commission’s recommendations are final and binding.
Article 76 is an amalgam of scientific and legal concepts and can be confusing to both scientists and lawyers because it imbues scientific terms with a legal meaning distinct from their usual scientific meaning. Applying article 76 requires a significant amount of information about the shape and composition of the seabed which is obtained by collecting bathymetric and seismic data respectively.
The first thing a coastal state needs to do is locate the foot of the continental slope, which is usually where the maximum change in gradient occurs in a region called the base of the slope.
Then, the coastal state applies a combination of two formulae to determine how far out its shelf might go. These formulae are:
Next, the coastal state applies two constraints which curb the extent of the shelf. These are:
Finally, the coastal state determines the outer limits by following the formula line farthest from shore where the constraints are not exceeded and the constraint line farthest from shore where the formulae lines exceed the constraint.
Note: This is a simplified explanation of a complex process and is not exhaustive.