Researching the Law of the Sea

August 26, 2012

The Law of the Sea Treaty, formally known as the Third United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS III, was adopted in 1982.  Its purpose is to establish a comprehensive set of rules governing the oceans in relation to species protection, navigation rights and other environmental issues. It was intended to replace its predecessors, UNCLOS I adopted in 1958 and UNCLOS II adopted in 1960, which were believed to be inadequate.  UNCLOS III has been in force since 1994 and has not been ratified by the U.S.

General research guides are great for getting an overview of the UNCLOS regime, see here, here and here.  More detailed entries on specific issues relating to the treaty can be found in Max Planck Encyclopaedia of Public International Law.

International Tribunal for the Law of the Seas (ITLOS) was established by UNCLOS III in 1982.  Appeal to the ITLOS is one of the means for the settlement of disputes concerning the interpretation or application of the Convention.  Its mandate is further defined in Annex VI to the Convention which contains the Statute of the Tribunal.  Other means include the International Court of Justice, an arbitral tribunal constituted in accordance with Annex VII of the Convention, or a special arbitral tribunal constituted in accordance with Annex VIII. The ITLOS website includes basic texts and instruments of UNCLOS III, docket information, and texts of decisions.  For historical preparatory materials relating to the series of treaties, consult the law library collected travaux guide.

Official ITLOS publications:

A selection of helpful print and online sources:

Useful Subject Headings to use in searching Morris/Encore:

  • United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982)
  • Continental Shelf-Law and Legislation
  • Contiguous zones (Law of the Sea)
  • Economic zones (Law of the Sea)
  • Marine resources conservation – Law and legislation
  • Marine resources development  – Law and legislation
  • Common heritage of mankind (International law) 
  • Ocean bottom – Law and legislation
  • Ocean mining – Law and legislaton
  • Territorial waters
  • Maritime law
  • Law of the sea 

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