united nations convention on the law of the sea


  • UNCLOS I[16] resulted in four treaties concluded in 1958: • Convention on the Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone, entry into force: 10 September 1964 • Convention on the
    Continental Shelf, entry into force: 10 June 1964 • Convention on the High Seas, entry into force: 30 September 1962 • Convention on Fishing and Conservation of Living Resources of the High Seas, entry into force: 20 March 1966 Although UNCLOS
    I was considered a success, it left open the important issue of breadth of territorial waters.

  • It mandated that key articles, including those on limitation of seabed production and mandatory technology transfer, would not be applied, that the United States, if it became
    a member, would be guaranteed a seat on the Council of the International Seabed Authority, and finally, that voting would be done in groups, with each group able to block decisions on substantive matters.

  • The state has sovereignty over these waters mostly to the extent it has over internal waters, but subject to existing rights including traditional fishing rights of immediately
    adjacent states.

  • [23] Part XI and the 1994 Agreement Part XI of the Convention provides for a regime relating to minerals on the seabed outside any state’s territorial waters or EEZ (Exclusive
    Economic Zones).

  • From 1982 to 1990, the United States accepted all but Part XI as customary international law, while attempting to establish an alternative regime for exploitation of the minerals
    of the deep seabed.

  • [6]) Using the customary international law principle of a nation’s right to protect its natural resources, President Harry S. Truman in 1945 extended United States control
    to all the natural resources of its continental shelf.

  • Part XII also bestows coastal and port states with broadened jurisdictional rights for enforcing international environmental regulation within their territory and on the high

  • [5] In the early 20th century, some nations expressed their desire to extend national claims: to include mineral resources, to protect fish stocks, and to provide the means
    to enforce pollution controls.

  • The United States objected to the provisions of Part XI of the Convention on several grounds, arguing that the treaty was unfavorable to American economic and security interests.

  • On 1 February 2011, the Seabed Disputes Chamber of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) issued an advisory opinion concerning the legal responsibilities
    and obligations of States Parties to the Convention with respect to the sponsorship of activities in the Area in accordance with Part XI of the Convention and the 1994 Agreement.

  • The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), also called the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea Treaty, is an international agreement that establishes
    a legal framework for all marine and maritime activities.

  • [25] Part XII – Protecting the marine environment Part XII of UNCLOS contains special provisions for the protection of the marine environment, obligating all States to collaborate
    in this matter, as well as placing special obligations on flag States to ensure that ships under their flags adhere to international environmental regulations, often adopted by the IMO.

  • [20][21] Aside from its provisions defining ocean boundaries, the convention establishes general obligations for safeguarding the marine environment and protecting freedom
    of scientific research on the high seas, and also creates an innovative legal regime for controlling mineral resource exploitation in deep seabed areas beyond national jurisdiction, through an International Seabed Authority and the common
    heritage of mankind principle.

  • Nations can also temporarily suspend innocent passage in specific areas of their territorial seas, if doing so is essential for the protection of their security.

  • This is considered necessary because UNCLOS does not currently provide a framework for areas beyond national jurisdiction.

  • Here a state can continue to enforce laws in four specific areas (customs, taxation, immigration, and pollution) if the infringement started or is about to occur within the
    state’s territory or territorial waters.

  • Coastal states also have exclusive control over living resources “attached” to the continental shelf, but not to creatures living in the water column beyond the exclusive
    economic zone.

  • [17] UNCLOS III The issue of varying claims of territorial waters was raised in the UN in 1967 by Arvid Pardo of Malta, and in 1973 the Third United Nations Conference on
    the Law of the Sea convened in New York.

  • Foreign nations have the freedom of navigation and overflight, subject to the regulation of the coastal states.

  • [24] The advisory opinion was issued in response to a formal request made by the International Seabed Authority following two prior applications the Authority’s Legal and
    Technical Commission had received from the Republic of Nauru and the Kingdom of Tonga regarding proposed activities (a plan of work to explore for polymetallic nodules) to be undertaken in the Area by two State-sponsored contractors – Nauru
    Ocean Resources Inc. (sponsored by the Republic of Nauru) and Tonga Offshore Mining Ltd. (sponsored by the Kingdom of Tonga).

  • [22] Landlocked states are given a right of access to and from the sea, without taxation of traffic through transit states.

  • The Convention resulted from the third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III), which took place between 1973 and 1982.

  • The most significant issues covered were setting limits, navigation, archipelagic status and transit regimes, exclusive economic zones (EEZs), continental shelf jurisdiction,
    deep seabed mining, the exploitation regime, protection of the marine environment, scientific research, and settlement of disputes.

  • The advisory opinion set forth the international legal responsibilities and obligations of Sponsoring States and the Authority to ensure that sponsored activities do not harm
    the marine environment, consistent with the applicable provisions of UNCLOS Part XI, Authority regulations, ITLOS case law, other international environmental treaties, and Principle 15 of the UN Rio Declaration.

  • [15] UNCLOS II In 1960, the United Nations held the second Conference on the Law of the Sea (“UNCLOS II”); however, the six-week Geneva conference did not result in any new

  • [2] Role[edit] The significance of UNCLOS stems from the fact that it systemizes and codifies the standards and principles of international maritime law, which are based on
    centuries of maritime experience and are expressed to a great extent in the United Nations Charter and current international maritime law norms, such as the Geneva Conventions of 1958.

  • A UN specialized agency, the International Maritime Organization, does play a role, however, as well as other bodies such as the International Whaling Commission and the International
    Seabed Authority (ISA), which was established by the Convention itself.

  • According to this concept, national rights were limited to a specified belt of water extending from a nation’s coastlines, usually 3 nautical miles (5.6 km; 3.5 mi) (three-mile
    limit), according to the ‘cannon shot’ rule developed by the Dutch jurist Cornelius van Bynkershoek.

  • [12][13] The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14 has a target regarding conservative and sustainable use of oceans and their resources in line with UNCLOS legal

  • Archipelagic waters The convention set the definition of “Archipelagic States” in Part IV, which also defines how the state can draw its territorial borders.

  • [4] All waters beyond national boundaries were considered international waters: free to all nations, but belonging to none of them (the mare liberum principle promulgated
    by Hugo Grotius).

  • Due to Part XI, the United States refused to ratify the UNCLOS, although it expressed agreement with the remaining provisions of the Convention.

  • [29] A fifth round of talks in August 2022 failed to produce an agreement, due in part to significant disagreements over how to share benefits derived from marine genetic
    resources and digital sequence information.

  • In an attempt to reduce the possibility of groups of nation-states dominating the negotiations, the conference used a consensus process rather than majority vote.

  • The 1994 Agreement also established a Finance Committee that would originate the financial decisions of the Authority, to which the largest donors would automatically be members
    and in which decisions would be made by consensus.

  • The coastal state is free to set laws, regulate use, and use any resource.


Works Cited

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Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/powerfocus/4442928974/’]