Initial legislation and licensing
Interest in the possibility that the North Sea might contain oil and gas was triggered by the discovery of the huge Groningen gas fi eld in the Netherlands at the end of May 1959. This turned out to be one of the world’s largest gas fi elds. It led to consideration of the possibility that gas deposits could extend into the North Sea. Several oil companies started seismic work in the North Sea soon after the Groningen discovery. Shell commenced seismic work off the British coast in 1961. Outside territorial waters no rights regarding petroleum were then available to the littoral states. They had no powers to regulate the activities of oil companies in what constituted the high seas.