Bajo Nuevo Bank

Bajo Nuevo Bank, also known as the Petrel Islands (Spanish: Bajo Nuevo, Islas Petrel), is a small, uninhabited reef with some small grass-covered islets, located in the western Caribbean Sea at 15°53′N 78°38′W / 15.883°N 78.633°WCoordinates: 15°53′N 78°38′W / 15.883°N 78.633°W, with a lighthouse on Low Cay at 15°51′N 78°38′W / 15.850°N 78.633°W. The closest neighbouring land feature is Serranilla Bank, located 110 kilometres (68 miles) to the west.

The reef was first shown on Dutch maps dating to 1634 but was given its present name in 1654. Bajo Nuevo was rediscovered by the English pirate John Glover in 1660. Although the bank is an integral part of Colombia,[1] it is subject to a sovereignty dispute with the United States. On November 19, 2012, in regards to Nicaraguan claims to the islands, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found, unanimously, that the Republic of Colombia has sovereignty over both Bajo Nuevo and Serranilla Banks.[2]

Bajo Nuevo Bank
Disputed islands
Other names: Petrel Islands
Bajo Nuevo
NASA image of Bajo Nuevo.
Bajo Nuevo Bank is located in Colombia
Bajo Nuevo Bank
LocationCaribbean Sea
Coordinates15°53′N 78°38′W / 15.883°N 78.633°W
Length26 km (16 mi)
Width9 km (5.6 mi)
Highest point
  • unnamed location on Low Cay
  • 2 metres (6.6 ft)
Administered by
DepartmentSan Andrés and Providencia
Claimed by
United States
Territoryunorganized, unincorporated


Bajo Nuevo Bank is about 26 km (16 mi) long and 9 km (5.6 mi) wide. The satellite image shows two distinct atoll-like structures separated by a deep channel 1.4 km (0.87 mi) wide at its narrowest point. The larger southwestern reef complex measures 15.4 km (9.6 mi) northeast-southwest, and is up to 9.4 km (5.8 mi) wide, covering an area of about 100 km2 (39 sq mi). The reef partially dries on the southern and eastern sides. The smaller northeastern reef complex measures 10.5 km (6.5 mi) east-west and is up to 5.5 km (3.4 mi) wide, covering an area of 45 km2 (17 sq mi). The land area is minuscule by comparison.

The most prominent cay is Low Cay, in the southwestern atoll. It is 300 m (330 yd) long and 40 m (44 yd) wide (about 1 ha or 2.5 acres), no more than 2 m (6.6 ft) high, and barren. It is composed of broken coral, driftwood, and sand. The light beacon on Low Cay is a 21 m (69 ft) metal tower, painted white with a red top. It emits a focal plane beam of light as two white flashes of light every 15 seconds. The beacon was erected in 1982,[3] and reconstructed by the Colombian Ministry of Defence in February 2008. It is currently maintained by the Colombian Navy, and overseen by the state's Maritime Authority.[4][5]

Territorial dispute

Bajo Nuevo Bank is the subject of conflicting claims made by a number of sovereign states. In most cases, the dispute stems from attempts by a state to expand its exclusive economic zone over the surrounding seas.

Colombia currently claims the area as part of the department of San Andrés and Providencia.[6][7] Naval patrols in the area are carried out by the San Andrés fleet of the Colombian Navy.[8] Colombia maintains that it has claimed these territories since 1886, as part of the geographic archipelago of San Andrés and Providencia.[3] This date is disputed by other claimant states, most prominent among them Nicaragua, which has argued that Colombia had not claimed the territory by name until recently.[9]

Jamaica's claim has been largely dormant since entering into a number of bilateral agreements with Colombia. Between 1982 and 1986, the two states maintained a formal agreement which granted regulated fishing rights to Jamaican vessels within the territorial waters of Bajo Nuevo and nearby Serranilla Bank.[10][11] Jamaica's signing of this treaty was regarded by critics as a de facto recognition of Colombian sovereignty over the two banks.[11] The treaty is now extinguished, however, as Colombia declined to renew it upon its expiration in August 1986.[11]

In November 1993, Colombia and Jamaica agreed upon a maritime delimitation treaty establishing a "Joint Regime Area" to cooperatively manage and exploit living and non-living resources in designated waters between the two aforementioned banks.[12] However, the territorial waters immediately surrounding the cays themselves were excluded from the zone of joint-control, as Colombia considers these areas to be part of her coastal waters.[13][14] The exclusion circles were defined in the chart attached to the treaty as "Colombia's territorial sea in Serranilla and Bajo Nuevo".[11] The agreement came into force in March 1994.[11]

Nicaragua lays claim to all the islands on its continental shelf, covering an area of over 50,000 km2 in the Caribbean Sea, including Bajo Nuevo Bank and all islands associated with the San Andrés and Providencia archipelagoes. It has persistently pursued this claim against Colombia in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), filing cases in both 2001 and 2007.[9][15] The main cause of the dispute lies in the debated validity and applicability of the Esguerra-Bárcenas treaty, exchanged with Colombia in March 1928.[9]

The United States claim was made on 22 November 1869 by James W. Jennett[16] under the provisions of the Guano Islands Act.[17] Most claims made by the U.S. over the guano islands in this region were officially renounced in a treaty with Colombia, dated September 1972.[18] But whether or not Bajo Nuevo Bank was included in the agreement is disputed, as the bank is not mentioned specifically by name within the treaty, and Article 7 of the treaty states that matters not specifically mentioned in the treaty are not subject to its terms. The U.S. administers the bank as an unorganized, unincorporated United States territory.[17][19]

Honduras, prior to its ratification of a maritime boundary treaty with Colombia on 20 December 1999,[20] had previously also laid claim to Bajo Nuevo and nearby Serranilla Bank. Both states agreed upon a maritime demarcation in 1986 that excluded Honduras from any control over the banks or their surrounding waters.[21][22][23] This bilateral treaty ensured that Honduras implicitly recognises Colombia's sovereignty over the disputed territories. Honduras' legal right to hand over these areas was disputed by Nicaragua before the ICJ.[24][25]

See also


  1. ^ Lewis, M.; International Justice (20 April 2011). "When Is an Island Not An Island? Caribbean Maritime Disputes". Radio Netherlands International. Retrieved 11 May 2011.
  2. ^ International Court of Justice (2012). "Territorial and maritime dispute (Nicaragua vs Colombia)" (PDF). Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  3. ^ a b "Anexo 7" (PDF) (in Spanish). Colombian Government, Ministry of National Defence. August 1997. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 October 2011. Retrieved 22 December 2009. Legal status of the Banks of Serranilla and Bajo Nuevo, page 8.
  4. ^ "Contract No. 153" (PDF) (in Spanish). Colombian Government, Ministry of National Defence. February 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 23 October 2009. Contract detail between Colombian Defence Ministry and private contractor, Tecnosoluciones Ltda, for the replacement of various metal lighthouse structures, including on Bajo Nuevo Bank.
  5. ^ "Grupo de Señalización Marítima del Caribe" (PDF) (in Spanish). Colombian Government, Ministry of National Defence. May 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 16 November 2009. Photographs of Colombian lighthouses, with Bajo Nuevo Bank shown, pages 4–5.
  6. ^ "Historia del Departamento Archipiélago" (in Spanish). Government of the San Andrés Department. 2008. Archived from the original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 2009-12-20. Description and general history of the Department of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina.
  7. ^ "Mapa Oficial Fronteras Terrestriales y Maritima Convenciones" (PDF). Instituto Geográfico Agustín Codazzi. Retrieved 25 October 2009. An official map of Colombian borders, with treaty dates.
  8. ^ (in Spanish) Armada de la República de Colombia: Forces and Commands — area is under the jurisdiction of Comando Específico de San Andrés y Providencia.
  9. ^ a b c "Territorial and Maritime Dispute" (PDF). International Court of Justice. December 2007. Retrieved 17 November 2009. Nicaragua v. Colombia, Preliminary Objections.
  10. ^ "Fishing Agreement Between Jamaica and the Republic of Colombia" (PDF). United Nations. November 1982. Retrieved 20 November 2009. Fishing agreement which permits regulated fishing rights to Jamaican vessels around Bajo Nuevo and Serranilla Banks.
  11. ^ a b c d e Charney, Jonathan; American Society of International Law (2004). International Maritime Boundaries, Vol. 2–3. Boston, United States: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. p. 2616. ISBN 978-90-411-0345-1. p2179-2192.
  12. ^ Colombia Jamaica Joint Regime Treaty
  13. ^ "Sentencia No. C-045/94" (in Spanish). Government of Colombia, Secretaría del Senado. February 1994. Archived from the original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 22 November 2009. Review of the 1993 Maritime Delimitation Treaty between Colombia and Jamaica.
  14. ^ "Continental, Coastal and Marine Ecosystems of Colombia, 1 of 36" (PDF). José Benito Vives de Andréis Marine and Coastal Research Institute (INVEMAR). 2001. Retrieved 22 December 2009. Topographic map of the Colombia-Jamaica Joint-Regime Area, with the two exclusion circles shown.
  15. ^ International Court of Justice: Nicaragua v. Colombia — Press Release, 2001.
  16. ^ Moore, John Bassett; United States Government, Department of State (1906). A Digest of International Law, Vol. 8. Washington, United States: Government Printing Office. p. 788. ISBN 978-1-4432-8111-9. p77.
  17. ^ a b "Acquisition Process of Insular Areas". United States Government, Department of the Interior. Archived from the original on 14 April 2012. Retrieved 2008-01-13. Lists Bajo Nuevo Bank as an insular area under U.S. sovereignty.
  18. ^ (in Spanish) Treaty of exchange between Colombia and the United States, 1972 Archived 24 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ "Application of the U.S. Constitution" (PDF). United States Government, General Accounting Office. November 1997. Archived (PDF) from the original on 16 February 2008. Retrieved 13 January 2008. Page 39 states that U.S. sovereignty over Bajo Nuevo is disputed. "Currently, the United States conducts maritime law enforcement operations in and around Serranilla Bank and Bajo Nuevo consistent with U.S. sovereignty claims." This is the only archived document from this source that mentions Bajo Nuevo Bank as an insular area.
  20. ^ (in Spanish) Affirmation of Maritime Delimitation Treaty between Honduras and Colombia, 1999
  21. ^ (in Spanish) Treaty between Colombia and Honduras, 1986
  22. ^ (in Spanish) Republic of Honduras: Political Constitution of 1982 through 2005 reforms
  23. ^ The American Society of International Law Archived 2 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine — see map at top of article.
  24. ^ The Republic of Nicaragua v. The Republic of Colombia, CCJ Case File Archived 9 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ Nicaragua-Honduras Territorial Dispute Archived 27 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine De Mar, Rebecca. American University, June 2002.

External links

Algerine-class gunboat

The Algerine class gunboats were a class of six 3-gun wooden gunboats (reclassified as gunvessels from 1859) built for the Royal Navy in 1857. A further pair were built in India for the Bombay Marine in 1859.

An enlarged version of the very numerous Albacore class, they reflected the change in use from coastal operations towards deep-water cruising, but were delivered too late to see action in the Crimean War. They were the first class of Royal Navy gunboat to incorporate a hoisting screw, which gave them improved performance under sail. Of note, the last man hung from the yardarm in the Royal Navy was a Royal Marine executed on 13 July 1860 in Leven.

Alice Shoal

Alice Shoal (Spanish: Banco Alicia or Bajo Alicia) is a wholly submerged reef, located in the western Caribbean Sea, about 260 kilometres (160 miles) southwest of Jamaica. The mainland of Colombia lies 740 kilometres (460 miles) away to the southeast.

Alice Shoal is situated 31 km northeast of East Cay of Serranilla Bank, and 48 km west of Bajo Nuevo Bank, at 16°05′N 79°22′W. The bank is about 16 km in diameter as defined by the 200 m isobath, which corresponds to an area of more than 200 km2. There are no islets, cays or above-water rocks. The bank has a minimum depth of 11 metres (36 feet), with coral bottom, at its eastern edge. Depths over the greater part of the bank are less than 63 metres (207 feet). The bottom is fine white sand. Rips mark the edges of the bank.

The reef falls within the Joint Regime zone of Colombia and Jamaica, a maritime delimitation zone which allows for co-operative control and exploitation of resources between the two states.

Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina

The Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina (Spanish: Archipiélago de San Andrés, Providencia y Santa Catalina, pronounced [aɾtʃiˈpjelaɣo ðe ˌsan anˈdɾes pɾoβiˈðensja i ˌsanta kataˈlina]), or, in everyday language, San Andrés y Providencia, is one of the departments of Colombia. It consists of two island groups about 775 km (482 mi) northwest of mainland Colombia, and eight outlying banks and reefs. The largest island of the archipelago is called San Andrés and its capital is San Andrés. The other large islands are Providencia and Santa Catalina Islands which lie to the north-east of San Andrés; their capital is Santa Isabel.

Guano Islands Act

The Guano Islands Act (11 Stat. 119, enacted August 18, 1856, codified at 48 U.S.C. ch. 8 §§ 1411-1419) is a United States federal law passed by the U.S. Congress that enables citizens of the United States to take possession, in the name of the United States, of unclaimed islands containing guano deposits. The islands can be located anywhere, so long as they are not occupied and not within the jurisdiction of another government. It also empowers the President of the United States to use the military to protect such interests and establishes the criminal jurisdiction of the United States in these territories.

Whenever any citizen of the United States discovers a deposit of guano on any island, rock, or key, not within the lawful jurisdiction of any other Government, and not occupied by the citizens of any other Government, and takes peaceable possession thereof, and occupies the same, such island, rock, or key may, at the discretion of the President, be considered as appertaining to the United States.

The Act continues to be part of the law of the United States. The most recent Guano Islands Act claim was made to Navassa Island. However, the claim was discarded because an American court ruled the island was already under American jurisdiction (a claim Haiti disputes).

HMS Jaseur (1857)

HMS Jaseur was an Algerine-class gunboat launched in 1857. She served on the North America and West Indies station for less than two years before her loss by stranding on the Bajo Nuevo Bank in the Caribbean on 26 February 1859.

List of Guano Island claims

The United States claimed a number of islands as insular areas under the Guano Islands Act of 1856. Only the eight administered as the US Minor Islands and one each annexed by American Samoa and Hawaii remain as possessions of the United States. Any other unresolved claims if they exist are dormant, and have not been contested by the United States in many years with the exception of Navassa.

List of sovereign states and dependent territories in North America

This is an alphabetical list of sovereign states and dependent territories in North America. This list uses the most inclusive definition of North America, which covers the landmass north of the Panama-Colombia border, and the islands of the Caribbean. North America is the northern continent of the Americas, situated in Earth's Northern Hemisphere and almost totally in the Western Hemisphere. It is bordered on the north by the Arctic Ocean, on the east by the North Atlantic Ocean, on the southeast by the Caribbean Sea, and on the west by the North Pacific Ocean; South America lies to the southeast.

List of sovereign states in 1914

This is a list of every sovereign state that existed in the year 1914 and their capitals. It includes not only those states which had widespread international recognition, but also those states which were generally unrecognized. In addition, it includes all non-sovereign territories which were not integral parts of sovereign states.

List of uninhabited regions

The list of uninhabited regions includes a number of places around the globe. The list changes year over year as human beings migrate into formerly uninhabited regions, or migrate out of formerly inhabited regions.

Serranilla Bank

Serranilla Bank (Spanish: Isla Serranilla, Banco Serranilla and Placer de la Serranilla) is a partially submerged reef, with small uninhabited islets, in the western Caribbean Sea. It is situated about 350 kilometres (220 mi) northeast of Punta Gorda, Nicaragua, and roughly 280 kilometres (170 mi) southwest of Jamaica. The closest neighbouring land feature is Bajo Nuevo Bank, located 110 kilometres (68 mi) to the east.

Serranilla Bank was first shown on Spanish maps in 1510. It is administered by Colombia as part of the department of San Andrés and Providencia. Although the bank is an integral part of Colombia, it is subject to a sovereignty dispute involving Honduras and the United States. On November 19, 2012, in regards to Nicaraguan claims to the islands, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found, unanimously, that the Republic of Colombia has sovereignty over Serranilla.

Territories of the United States

Territories of the United States are sub-national administrative divisions overseen by the federal government. They differ from U.S. states and Native American tribes, which have limited sovereignty. The territories are classified by incorporation and whether they have an "organized" government through an organic act passed by Congress.The U.S. currently has sixteen territories in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Five (American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) are permanently-inhabited, unincorporated territories; the other nine are small islands, atolls and reefs with no native (or permanent) population. Of the eleven, only one is classified as an incorporated territory. Two territories (Bajo Nuevo Bank and Serranilla Bank) are defacto administered by Colombia. Territories were created to administer newly-acquired land, and most eventually attained statehood. Others, such as the Philippines, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau, later became independent.

Many organized incorporated territories of the United States existed from 1789 to 1959. The first were the Northwest and Southwest territories, and the last were the Alaska and Hawaii Territories. Thirty-one territories (or parts of territories) became states. In the process, some less-developed or -populous areas of a territory were orphaned from it after a statehood referendum. When a portion of the Missouri Territory became the state of Missouri, the remainder of the territory (the present-day states of Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota, most of Kansas, Wyoming, and Montana, and parts of Colorado and Minnesota) became an unorganized territory.Territorial telecommunications and other infrastructure is generally inferior to that of the U.S. mainland, and American Samoa's Internet speed was found to be slower than several Eastern European countries. Poverty rates are higher in the territories than in the states.

Time in the United States

Time in the United States, by law, is divided into nine standard time zones covering the states and its possessions, with most of the United States observing daylight saving time (DST) for approximately the spring, summer, and fall months. The time zone boundaries and DST observance are regulated by the Department of Transportation. Official and highly precise timekeeping services (clocks) are provided by two federal agencies: the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) (an agency of the Department of Commerce); and its military counterpart, the United States Naval Observatory (USNO). The clocks run by these services are kept synchronized with each other as well as with those of other international timekeeping organizations.

It is the combination of the time zone and daylight saving rules, along with the timekeeping services, which determines the legal civil time for any U.S. location at any moment.

United States Minor Outlying Islands

The United States Minor Outlying Islands are a statistical designation defined by the International Organization for Standardization's ISO 3166-1 code. The entry code is ISO 3166-2:UM. The minor outlying islands and groups of islands consist of eight United States insular areas in the Pacific Ocean (Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Atoll, Palmyra Atoll, and Wake Island) and one in the Caribbean Sea (Navassa Island).

The United States has a related territorial dispute with Colombia over administration of the Bajo Nuevo Bank and Serranilla Bank. These islands are not included in the ISO designation.

United States Miscellaneous Caribbean Islands

The United States Miscellaneous Caribbean Islands is an obsolete collective term for the territories currently or formerly controlled by the United States in the Caribbean Sea. Most of the islands were acquired through claims made via the Guano Islands Act:

Bajo Nuevo Bank (occupied by Colombia, claimed by the U.S., Jamaica and Nicaragua)

Corn Islands (returned to Nicaragua on April 25, 1971)

Navassa Island (U.S. unincorporated territory, claimed by Haiti)

Quita Sueño Bank (claim abandoned on September 17, 1981, occupied by Colombia)

Roncador Bank (ceded to Colombia on September 17, 1981)

Serrana Bank (ceded to Colombia on September 17, 1981)

Serranilla Bank (occupied by Colombia, claimed by the U.S., Nicaragua, Honduras and, until 1994, Jamaica)

Swan Islands (ceded to Honduras on September 1, 1972)The islands were given the FIPS country code of BQ before 1974. With the transfer of sovereignty of most of the islands, the FIPS country code of BQ now represents only Navassa Island, still controlled by the U.S.

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Outlying islands
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