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 Coordinates: , with a lighthouse on Low Cay at . The closest neighbouring land feature is Serranilla Bank, located 110 kilometres (68 miles) to the west.
|Disputed reef and islands|
Other names: Petrel Islands
|Length||26 km (16 mi)|
|Width||9 km (5.6 mi)|
|Department||San Andres and Providencia|
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. The reef is now subject to a sovereignty dispute involving Colombia and the United States. On 19 November 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.
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, 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.
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 Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina. Naval patrols in the area are carried out by the San Andrés fleet of the Colombian Navy. Colombia maintains that it has claimed these territories since 1886, as part of the geographic archipelago of San Andrés and Providencia. 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.
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. Jamaica's signing of this treaty was regarded by critics as a de facto recognition of Colombian sovereignty over the two banks. However, the treaty is now extinguished, as Colombia declined to renew it upon its expiration in August 1986.
In November 1993, Colombia and Jamaica agreed upon a maritime delimitation treaty establishing the Joint Regime Area to cooperatively manage and exploit living and non-living resources in designated waters between the two aforementioned banks. 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 its coastal waters. The exclusion circles were defined in the chart attached to the treaty as "Colombia's territorial sea in Serranilla and Bajo Nuevo". The agreement came into force in March 1994.
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. The main cause of the dispute lies in the debated validity and applicability of the Esguerr–Bárcenas treaty, exchanged with Colombia in March 1928.
The United States claim was made on 22 November 1869 by James W. Jennett under the provisions of the Guano Islands Act. 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. However, Bajo Nuevo Bank was not mentioned in the treaty, and Article 7 of the treaty states that matters not specifically mentioned in the treaty are not subject to its terms. The United States considers the bank as an unincorporated unorganized territory.
Honduras, prior to its ratification of a maritime boundary treaty with Colombia on 20 December 1999, 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. This bilateral treaty ensured that Honduras implicitly recognises Colombia's sovereignty over the disputed territories. Honduras's legal right to hand over these areas was disputed by Nicaragua before the ICJ.
- International Court of Justice (2012). "Territorial and maritime dispute (Nicaragua vs Colombia)" (PDF). Retrieved 27 November 2012.
- "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.
- "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.
- "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.
- "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.
- "Mapa Oficial Fronteras Terrestriales y Maritima Convenciones" (PDF). Instituto Geográfico Agustín Codazzi. Retrieved 25 October 2009.[permanent dead link] An official map of Colombian borders, with treaty dates.
- (in Spanish) Armada de la República de Colombia: Forces and Commands Archived 2 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine — area is under the jurisdiction of Comando Específico de San Andrés y Providencia.
- "Territorial and Maritime Dispute" (PDF). International Court of Justice. December 2007. Retrieved 17 November 2009. Nicaragua v. Colombia, Preliminary Objections.
- "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.
- 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.
- Colombia Jamaica Joint Regime Treaty
- "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.
- "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.
- International Court of Justice: Nicaragua v. Colombia — Press Release, 2001.
- 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.
- "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.
- (in Spanish) Treaty of exchange between Colombia and the United States, 1972 Archived 24 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- "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.[dead link]
- (in Spanish) Affirmation of Maritime Delimitation Treaty between Honduras and Colombia, 1999
- (in Spanish) Treaty between Colombia and Honduras, 1986
- (in Spanish) Republic of Honduras: Political Constitution of 1982 through 2005 reforms
- The American Society of International Law Archived 2 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine — see map at top of article.
- The Republic of Nicaragua v. The Republic of Colombia, CCJ Case File Archived 9 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- Nicaragua-Honduras Territorial Dispute Archived 27 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine De Mar, Rebecca. American University, June 2002.
- U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Bajo Nuevo Bank
- Website with a map of San Andrés and Providencia, Serranilla Bank, Bajo Nuevo Bank and Rosalind Bank Archived 2 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine
- Aerial picture of Bajo Nuevo Bank at the Wayback Machine (archived 23 December 2010) — the website is related to San Andrés and Providencia.
- WorldStatesmen — lists the bank under United States.
- Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of Northern Colombia". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.