Oceans and Law of the Sea

Technical assistance provided by the
Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea

Last updated: 21 July 2010

The Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS) of the Office of Legal Affairs (OLA) has been executing an ongoing programme of technical assistance to States and intergovernmental organizations in the field of oceans and the law of the sea since the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982. The programme focuses on the uniform and consistent application of the Convention in many fields of interest and concern for States and for intergovernmental organizations, as well as supporting efforts which help States to implement the Convention effectively and derive optimal benefits from the new ocean order. Technical assistance is provided, inter alia, in the following forms:

Advisory services

Advisory services are provided to States on issues related to the ratification of the Convention and related agreements, their uniform and consistent application and effective implementation, including the impact of the entry into force of the Convention in light of the rights and obligations of States arising therefrom, and on the harmonization of national rules and regulations with the provisions of the Convention. Advisory services to intergovernmental organizations pertain to analysis of the relationships of the existing and proposed instruments and programmes of these organizations on matters relating to oceans and the law of the sea within their respective areas of competence with the provisions of the Convention.


The training activities of DOALOS under its TRAIN-SEA-COAST programme in the field of coastal and ocean management are unique because they are designed to strengthen the capabilities of national training institutions and train national trainers. The institutions and the trainers then form a worldwide network sharing training courses, personnel and material, thus realizing a multiplier effect.

Other training activities of DOALOS include ad hoc briefings and contributions to training programmes sponsored by national, intergovernmental, and non-governmental organizations in the field of oceans and the law of the sea. An important set of training activities being developed at this time within the framework of a soon-to-be-established trust fund involve the application of the provisions of article 76 of the Convention dealing with the delineation of the continental shelf.

The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), an international expert body serviced by DOALOS, also has plans for providing training to national officials who would prepare the submission of their respective States to the Commission regarding the limits of their continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.


Every year, one or two fellowships are provided by DOALOS under its Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe Memorial Fellowship programme to qualified persons specialized in the law of the sea and ocean affairs who wish to broaden their knowledge and acquire additional skills, which in turn would benefit their countries. Although the fellowship is limited in quantity, the qualitative impact of the strengthened capabilities of the individual fellows can be enormous in view of the fact that in many cases, the fellows are the sole decision-makers in their respective countries in their field of responsibility.


 †††††††† On 22 April 2004, the United Nations and The Nippon Foundation of Japan concluded a trust fund project agreement to provide capacity-building and human resource development to developing coastal States Parties and non-Parties to the UNCLOS through academic and fellowship opportunities. The Project will be jointly executed by DOALOS and DESA (Department of Economic and Social Affairs). DOALOS will serve as the focal point in charge of all substantive elements of the Project. DESA, in its capacity as implementing agency for the Project, will be responsible for providing administrative and operational services to the Project on behalf of DOALOS.†

 †††††††† The main objective of the Project is to provide advanced education and training in the field of ocean affairs and the law of the sea or related disciplines to Government officials and other mid-level professionals from developing coastal States so that they may obtain the necessary skills to assist their countries to formulate comprehensive ocean policy and to implement the legal regime set out in UNCLOS, as well as to build national capacities in this regard. The fellows are to focus on acquiring knowledge of UNCLOS and related international instruments adopted at the global or regional level, especially their implementation and enforcement at the national level.

Studies and guidelines

DOALOS carries out studies on, inter alia, State practice in the law of the sea and legislative history of particular Convention provisions. DOALOS also produces guidelines in respect of practical application of many complex provisions of the Convention.  Of particular note are the guidelines on maritime baselines, definition of the continental shelf, and marine scientific research. These Law of the Sea Publications assist States and intergovernmental organizations in the uniform and consistent application of the relevant provisions of the Convention.

The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) has prepared scientific and technical guidelines (United Nations documents CLCS/11 and CLCS/11/Add.1) and a basic flowchart for preparation of a submission by a coastal State to the Commission (CLCS/22), which are intended to be of assistance to States.

Reference collection and databases

DOALOS maintains an extensive reference collection dealing with ocean and law of the sea matters and provides library services to end-users.

DOALOS also has extensive databases containing national legislation and delimitation treaties, from almost all coastal countries of the world. Moreover, DOALOS maintains a geographical information system database on charts and/or lists of geographical coordinates and other related information deposited by States Parties to the Convention with respect to the limits of their maritime zones. These databases are used as tools for providing technical assistance to States in adopting/adapting national legislation in harmony with the Convention and delineating national maritime zones.

Web site

DOALOS's Oceans and Law of the Sea Web site (www.un.org/Depts/los) is one important form of technical assistance.  Through the Web site, expository reports and other items as well as legal materials and documents relating to oceans and the law of the sea can be accessed electronically via the Internet.


Legislative mandate for the provision of technical assistance by DOALOS

The legislative basis for the technical assistance activities of DOALOS is provided by the resolutions of the General Assembly on oceans and the law of the sea (A/RES/49/28, A/RES/52/26, A/RES/55/7, A/RES/56/12 and A/RES/57/141), the medium-term plan of the United Nations (A/55/6 (Prog. 5), subprogramme 4) and the Secretary-Generalís bulletin on the organization of the Office of Legal Affairs (ST/SGB/1997/8, Section 7).

Contact person for further information

Queries regarding the technical assistance by DOALOS on the law of the sea and ocean affairs should be addressed to:

Division for Ocean Affairs and the law of the Sea
Office of Legal Affairs
Room DC2-0450
United Nations
New York, NY 10017

Telephone: (212) 963-3950
Fax: (212) 963-5847


Prepared by the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs, United Nations.

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