Law of the sea
Entry into force
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 (UNCLOS) entered into force on 16 November 1994, supplemented by an Implementing Agreement of 28 July 1994 on the application of the provisions on seabed mining. As of 31 December 2012, 164 states (including the EU) had acceded to UNCLOS, and 143 states had ratified the Implementing Agreement. The Agreement relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks of 4 August 1995 entered into force on 11 December 2001. Germany acceded to this Agreement on 19 December 2003 together with all other EU states. At present it has 80 States Parties.
The negotiations leading up to the signature of UNCLOS lasted for more than 25 years. It all started in 1967 with the call for the seabed to be declared mankind’s common heritage. The UN General Assembly thereupon established the Sea-Bed Committee, which led to the convening in 1973 of the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea. This Conference concluded in 1982 with the adoption of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Most Western industrialized nations initially rejected the Convention because of the provisions on seabed mining contained in Part XI, in particular the rules on taxes, customs duties and mining restrictions, as well as technology transfers and decision-making processes within the International Seabed Authority. An informal consultation process under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General eventually resulted in a modification of Part XI of the Convention, in the form of the Implementing Agreement of 28 July 1994. This paved the way for universal acceptance of the Convention.
The Convention with its total of 320 articles is the most comprehensive and important multilateral treaty developed within the UN framework. It replaces the four Geneva Conventions on the Law of the Sea of 1958 and regulates almost all spheres of international law of the sea (demarcation of the various sea zones, such as the territorial sea, contiguous zone, straits, archipelagic waters, exclusive economic zone, continental shelf and the high seas; use of these areas by shipping, overflight, the laying of pipelines and cables, fishing and research; protection of the marine environment; development and transfer of marine technology; seabed mining; the settlement of disputes, in particular with the establishment of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea). The Convention both codifies existing law and further develops new international rules on the law of the sea, for example in the sphere of marine environmental protection. The States Parties discuss the implementation of the Convention at annual meetings.
The UNCLOS provisions on piracy provide the basis for dealing with this problem, especially in the Indian Ocean and off the coast of West Africa.
International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea
The Convention established three new institutions: the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg, the International Seabed Authority (ISA) in Kingston, Jamaica (comprising Assembly, Council and Secretariat), and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS). The ITLOS is the first significant legal institution from the broader UN sphere to have its headquarters on German territory. In March 2012, the Tribunal issued its judgement on the delimitation of the maritime boundary between Bangladesh and Myanmar in the Bay of Bengal. A total of 20 cases have so far been submitted to the Tribunal.
Germany’s territorial sea
The German statute to implement the UNCLOS regime (Act Implementing the Convention of the Law of the Sea 1982/94), which provides for the necessary adaptation of domestic law, entered into force on 15 June 1995. On the basis of the Convention, the Federal Republic of Germany extended the breadth of its territorial sea to a maximum of 12 nautical miles as of 1 January 1995 and proclaimed the establishment of an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the North and Baltic Seas. In particular, this created the prerequisites for more effective environmental protection and an improvement in shipping safety.
Last updated 27.12.2012