|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Meeting of States Parties
to Law of Sea Convention
149th & 150th Meetings (AM & PM)
Law of Sea Convention States Parties Open Session amid Praise for Tribunal’s
Landmark Boundary Ruling, Seabed Disputes Chamber’s Advisory Opinion
Issuing its first ever decision in a maritime boundary dispute and rendering an unprecedented advisory opinion on seabed mining, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea had made unprecedented strides in the evolution of international ocean law over the last year, said delegates as the States parties to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea met today to begin its twenty-second annual session.
Among other accomplishments, representatives lauded the Tribunal’s March judgment in the “dispute concerning delimitation of the maritime boundary between Bangladesh and Myanmar in the Bay of Bengal”, which was the first time that any international court had dealt with the delimitation of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. Many also praised the first ever advisory opinion by the Tribunal’s Seabed Disputes Chamber — focusing on the obligations of States sponsoring persons and entities engaged in seabed activities — which had been requested by the Council of the International Seabed Authority.
Often referred to as “the constitution for the oceans”, the landmark Convention on the Law of the Sea — which marks its thirtieth anniversary in 2012 - was opened for signature on 10 December 1982 and entered into force on 16 November 1994. Its 320 articles and nine annexes govern all aspects of ocean space and maritime issues, from navigational rights, maritime limits and marine scientific research to resource management, marine environment protection and dispute settlement. The adoption of the Convention established three bodies — the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the International Seabed Authority and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf — whose top officials all addressed the Meeting of States Parties today.
The year 2011 had seen substantial growth in the judicial activities of the International Tribunal, said that body’s President, Shunji Yanai, as he opened his briefing on the court’s recent work. That growth reflected an increase, not only in the number of cases, but also in their complexity and variety. The Tribunal had dealt with a total of four cases involving a wide-ranging spectrum of matters, including the delimitation of maritime boundaries, the responsibilities and obligations of States sponsoring persons and entities in the Area (the seabed and ocean floor, and subsoil thereof beyond the limits of national jurisdiction), the detention of vessels in relation to activities connected with marine scientific research and protecting the cultural heritage, and claims for damages arising out of the arrest of vessels.
Describing the court’s 14 March judgment in the Bay of Bengal case, he said that the maritime boundary between Bangladesh and Myanmar had been determined in relation to the territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf. The decision in that case had been delivered little more than two years after the proceedings had been instituted, which was “quite a short period for a complex delimitation case”. Indeed, the availability of a mechanism for the peaceful settlement of such disputes was of utmost importance, and “the Tribunal has been instrumental in this regard”.
Patricia O’Brien, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, echoed the sentiment of many speakers that the year 2012 was a special one in sea law — not only because of the landmark work of the Tribunal, but because it marked three full decades since the adoption of the “milestone” Convention. Recalling that the number of States parties to that instrument currently stood at 162, she said that the Convention, along with two other implementing agreements, the 1994 Part XI Agreement and the 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement, provided a comprehensive legal regime for all ocean activities. In addition, she said, the International Seabed Authority continued to make invaluable contributions towards the exploration of seabed resources.
Taking the floor to make statements today, many representatives joined in congratulating the three bodies established by the Convention, focusing in particular on the work of the Tribunal. In that respect, the representative of Monaco said that its report was proof of its “significant progress”, and moreover, the Tribunal had issued its first judgment with record speed. It was indeed a critical institution for the codification of the law of the sea, the delegate stressed.
The representative of Bangladesh also lauded the Tribunal for the successful conclusion of its first case — of which his country had been a party — calling the decision a manifestation of “unprecedented efficiency”. The case had been dealt with in manner that was transparent, just and equitable, he said. While some had feared that bringing in a new body would lead to fragmentation of the law of the sea, the decision had proved that those fears were unfounded. The ruling had provided guidance with respect to future cases on grey areas. By resolving the dispute, he said, both his country and Myanmar had opened new opportunities to their people.
Similarly, the representative of the other party to that case, Myanmar, agreed that the judgment had been fair, equitable and balanced. Moreover, it had resolved a dispute that had existed for more than 36 years. The judgment, which represented a “major milestone”, would serve as good precedent for other States parties in maintaining the rule of law with regard to the law of the sea and in the settlement of disputes by peaceful means, he said.
Also today, the Meeting elected the following to its Credentials Committee: New Zealand and Switzerland from the Group of Western European and Other States; Mozambique and Senegal from the Group of African States; Thailand and China from the Group of Asian States; and Grenada and Brazil from the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States. It was hoped that the Group of Eastern European States would be able to confirm its two members for the Credentials Committee tomorrow.
Throughout the morning, several delegations conveyed their condolences to the Government of Nigeria, where an airplane crash one day earlier had left some 150 people dead.
The Meeting of States Parties will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 5 June, to continue its work.
The twenty-second Meeting of States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea began this morning at Headquarters, slated to run through 11 June. For background, see Press Release SEA/1967 of 1 June.
Opening the Meeting, outgoing Vice-President of the twenty-first Meeting of States Parties, SUE ROBERTSON (Australia), held a moment of silence in memory of the late Chairperson of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, Alexandre Tagore Medeiros de Albuquerque (Brazil), who had passed away on 29 March.
Proceeding to establish its Bureau, the Meeting elected Isabelle Picco (Monaco) to serve as its President, having been nominated by the Western European and Others Group according to the practice of regional rotation.
Taking her place at the podium, Ms. PICCO briefly addressed the meeting, thanking Ms. Robertson and the outgoing President of the twenty-first Meeting, Camillo Gonsalves (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) for their work. The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was one of the most important frameworks in international law, she said, noting that 2012 marked its thirtieth anniversary.
Next, the representative of Canada took the floor to register an objection to the manner in which the Palestinian observer to the Meeting had been seated. Canada’s delegation did not recognize a Palestinian State and did not feel that the observer should be seated in a way that might create a “misleading impression”. States parties had come to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention, and that occasion should rise above political issues. While Canada supported the idea of a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with an eye towards a viable Palestinian State, all unilateral acts only presented challenges to the peace process, she said.
The representative of the United States agreed, also registering the delegation’s objection to the way that the Palestinian observer had been seated.
The representative of Israel similarly expressed her delegation’s regret and opposition to efforts to politicize an “otherwise neutral, professional forum”, through the manner of seating. The only way to make progress towards a sustainable solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was through direct negotiations without preconditions, she said. As such, the current manner of seating represented “political posturing”, which merely created more hostility and pushed back efforts towards reconciliation.
The Meeting then turned its attention to the provisional agenda of the current session, contained in document SPLOS/L.69, adopting it by consensus.
Following the adoption, PATRICIA O’BRIEN, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, made a brief opening statement. She noted that, today, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea had a total of 162 parties, including the European Union. That document, along with two other implementing agreements — the 1994 Part XI Agreement and the 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement — provided a comprehensive legal regime for all activities in the ocean, she said. The year 2012 was a special one for the Convention, as it marked the thirtieth anniversary of its opening for signature. Throughout the year, several activities had been scheduled to commemorate that event, which represented a “major milestone in international law”.
She said that, over the course of the last year, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea had continued to contribute to the development of international law, including by rendering its judgment in the “dispute concerning delimitation of the maritime boundary between Bangladesh and Myanmar in the Bay of Bengal”, the first by the Tribunal concerning maritime boundary delimitation. Among other achievements and activities, the Seabed Disputes Chamber had rendered its first-ever advisory opinion on “the responsibilities and obligations of States sponsoring persons and entities with respect to activities in the Area”, which had been requested by the Council of the International Seabed Authority.
In addition, the Secretariat, through the Division of Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, continued to maintain its close relationship with the International Seabed Authority and to monitor the latter’s important work, she said. The Authority, for its part, continued to make valuable contributions towards the exploration of seabed resources. Work was under way on a third set of regulations for such activities, and those important instruments would provide guidance to contractors in their exploration.
Completing its Bureau, the Meeting then elected, by consensus, Palitha T.B. Kohona (Sri Lanka), Mateo Estreme (Argentina), Oleksiy Shapoval (Ukraine) and Tarunjai Reetoo (Mauritius) as Vice-Presidents.
Making a general statement, the representative of Kenya said significant strides had been made in establishing the potential of ocean resources, which had enabled a large number of States to extract and utilize ocean resources. However, as that was happening, it was necessary to keep in mind the goals of the Convention — key among them, the desire to establish a legal order for the seas and oceans, and to promote the equitable and efficient utilization of resources within a peaceful environment. The achievement of that goal was meant to contribute to the realization of a “just and equitable international economic order” which took into account the interests and needs of humankind as a whole and, in particular, of developing countries, be they landlocked or coastal States.
Noting that one region had fewer Commissioners proposed for election to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf than the allocated number of seats, he asked the Secretariat to provide further information on the likely repercussions of having 19 — as opposed to the proposed 21 — members of the Commission. Additionally, given the “enormous resources” expended by Kenya in preparing a submission to the Commission, he also asked when that submission might be considered.
The representative of Nigeria lauded the Commission for having provided at least 16 recommendations, despite its strenuous workload. However, many preliminary submissions were still pending, and Nigeria, therefore, supported all efforts by States parties to help the Commission address the submissions still on its queue.
International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea
Introducing the annual report of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea for 2011 (document SPLOS/241), was Tribunal President SHUNJI YANAI, who explained that the document covered the period 1 January to 31 December 2011 and provided an overview of the Tribunal’s judicial activities and the work carried out during its two regular sessions. It also set out the financial position of the Tribunal in 2011.
The year 2011, he said, had shown substantial growth in the Tribunal’s judicial activities. That growth reflected an increase, not only in the number of cases, but also in their complexity and variety. The Tribunal had dealt with a total of four cases involving a wide-ranging spectrum of matters, including the delimitation of maritime boundaries, the responsibilities and obligations of States sponsoring persons and entities in the Area, the detention of vessels in relation to activities connected with marine scientific research and protecting the cultural heritage, and claims for damages arising out of the arrest of vessels.
Among the main developments of those cases, he highlighted the Tribunal’s judgment of 14 March 2012 — the Tribunal’s first maritime delimitation case — the dispute concerning the delimitation of the maritime boundary between Bangladesh and Myanmar in the Bay of Bengal. In its judgment, the Tribunal determined the maritime boundary between the parties in relation to the territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf. A distinguishing feature of the case was that the Tribunal had also been called upon to consider the delimitation between the parties of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.
He said he was pleased to report that the decision in that case had been delivered little more than two years after the proceedings had been instituted, which was “quite a short period for a complex delimitation case”. He also provided details about the advisory opinion in the case concerning “Responsibilities and obligations of States sponsoring persons and entities with respect to activities in the Area”, emphasizing that it was the first time the Seabed Disputes Chamber had been seized of a case and the first request for an advisory opinion referred to the Tribunal. It, too, had been handled expeditiously and the advisory opinion had been well received within the framework of the International Seabed Authority.
Regarding the proposed budget for 2013-2014, the proposals for recurrent expenditures followed a zero-growth approach, subjected to an adjustment for factors beyond the Tribunal’s control, he said. The Tribunal faced an increased judicial workload. In addition, it should remain prepared to deal with urgent cases, including prompt release cases and requests for provisional measures. The proposed budget took due account of those developments and had therefore resulted in some increases in respect of case-related expenditures.
He noted that the Tribunal had set up several initiatives to promote the awareness of the Convention and its dispute settlement procedures. One such initiative was the internship programme, from which 12 persons from 12 different countries had benefitted in 2011. A “trust fund for the law of the sea” had been established by the Tribunal to provide applicants from developing countries with financial assistance to enable them to participate in the programme. A further initiative was the capacity-building and training programme on dispute settlement under the Convention, conducted with the support of the Nippon Foundation. The Tribunal also provided cooperation to the International Foundation for the Law of the Sea in the organization of the summer academy.
In closing, he noted that 2012 marked the thirtieth anniversary of the opening for signature of the Convention, a treaty that had significantly contributed to maintaining international peace and security at sea, promoting economic activities and protecting the marine environment. In achieving those goals, he said, the availability of resort to peaceful mechanisms for the settlement of disputes was of utmost importance, and “the Tribunal has been instrumental in this regard”.
Following that introduction, the representative of the Republic of Korea addressed the need for more publicity about the Tribunal. Few cases had been sent to that body, he said, and moreover, it should play a more prominent role in evolving the law of the sea and in resolving international disputes. The judgment delivered in March in the dispute of Bangladesh versus Myanmar had made a huge contribution to the maritime delineations between countries.
Part of the effort to enhance the capacity of developing States might include the need to sponsor the participation of interns and other participants, he said, noting that contributions of €25,000 and €50,000 had been made by a company from the Republic of Korea and the Korea Maritime Institute, respectively. Such support would continue.
The representative of Germany, the host State of the Tribunal, addressed the “impressive scope” of the court’s activities. Among other accomplishments, he praised the advisory opinion of the Seabed Chamber, which had made an important contribution to the evolution of deep seabed mining.
The representative of Japan agreed that the Tribunal played an important role in the peaceful settlement of disputes and the maintenance and development of sea law. Reiterating the recent accomplishments of the Tribunal and the Seabed Chamber, she expressed her delegation’s firm determination to further support the activities of those bodies. The Japanese Nippon Foundation had provided scholarships in an effort to allow young students to be involved with law of the sea activities, she added.
The representative of Mexico welcomed the Convention’s thirtieth anniversary and reaffirmed that its entry into force had established it as the basis for all ocean activities. The various bodies set up under the Convention were working effectively. Mexico valued the effort being made by the Tribunal. Despite its increased workload, it had continued to perform with the same level of excellence as always. It had been able to consolidate itself into a forum for resolving disputes between States and played a key role in building international rule of law. Its work had been strong within the area of consultative opinion with regard to the seabed. Mexico believed that the advisory opinions of the Tribunal’s Seabed Chamber should be taken as a starting point for the States Parties’ Meeting.
The representative of Monaco said that the report just introduced was proof of the significant progress made by the Tribunal and congratulated it on its first judgment, which had been issued with record speed. The Tribunal was an essential institution for the law of the sea and contributed to the codification of many instruments introduced by the 1982 Convention. Monaco supported its activities.
The representative of Bangladesh congratulated the Tribunal on the successful conclusion of its first case, on which a decision had been delivered in March. That decision was a manifestation of unprecedented efficiency, and the case had been dealt with in manner that was transparent, just and equitable. The Tribunal had given some landmark decisions. It had been feared that bringing in a new body like the Tribunal would lead to fragmentation of the law of the sea, but those fears had proved unfounded.
The Tribunal’s decision with regard to the delimitation of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles was the first time that an international court or tribunal had dealt with such an issue, said the delegate. That court had made clear decisions and its decision provided guidance with respect to future cases in “grey” areas. The Tribunal provided parties with a solution that was balanced and equitable, and Bangladesh thanked the States parties for providing support to the Tribunal and Myanmar for accepting the Tribunal’s jurisdiction. By resolving the dispute, both his country and Myanmar had opened opportunities to their people.
The representative of Trinidad and Tobago said the report of the Tribunal was a public declaration allowing the international community to witness the work of the treaty body. Recognizing the strides made by the Tribunal, he recalled that, due to its faith in the fairness and impartiality of that body, his delegation had made a declaration accepting its jurisdiction as the preferred means of settlement of disputes. The number of States parties to the Convention continued to grow, and he hoped that in the near future it would include all United Nations Member States.
The delegate noted with appreciation the Tribunal’s “progressive stance”. That proactive approach placed it in a good position to deal with the increasing demands of States parties. Despite the increased workload, the court had presented a budget in line with a zero-growth approach; his delegation, therefore, hoped that States parties would view that budget in a positive light.
The European Union delegate said that the Tribunal played an important role in contributing to the settlement of disputes by peaceful means, as well as to the implementation and development of the law of the sea. It had built a reputation for its qualitative, timely and efficient management of cases. The Union had taken note of the cases submitted to the Tribunal. With regard to the case concerning the delimitation of the maritime boundary between Bangladesh and Myanmar in the Bay of Bengal, the Union and its member States noted the consensual referral of the case to the Tribunal as a means of peaceful settlement of disputes relating to the law of the sea and, in particular, the judgment delivered by it in March.
The delegate said that the importance of the advisory opinion of the Seabed Disputes Chamber on responsibilities and obligations of States would be addressed at the International Seabed Authority meeting in July. He added that arrears in payment of assessed contributions were a source of concern to the European Union and its member States, and States parties should honour their commitments and pay outstanding contributions to the Tribunal in full.
The representative of Myanmar said that the judgment in the maritime dispute between Bangladesh and Myanmar was fair, equitable and balanced and had resolved a dispute that had existed for over 36 years. That judgment covered all aspects of the Convention and would serve as a major milestone. It would also serve as good precedent for other States parties in maintaining the rule of law with regard to the law of the sea and in the settlement of disputes by peaceful means. Myanmar had taken note of the importance of the advisory opinion of the Chamber. The country would continue to support the work and activities of the Tribunal and of the various institutions of the Convention.
The representative of Lebanon said that the judgment in the dispute between Bangladesh and Myanmar had been delivered expeditiously and was sure to be a significant input to the growing jurisprudence in that area of the law of the sea. That judgment had highlighted the Tribunal’s contribution in maritime affairs. Lebanon took note of the first ever advisory opinion rendered by the Tribunal and the contribution it represented. The country called for the upholding of State liability for environmental harm. It also took note of the progress that had been made in the M/V “Louisa” and the M/V “Virginia G” cases. It called on all States that had yet to do so to ratify the Law of the Sea Convention.
The representative of Argentina expressed his delegation’s satisfaction with regard to the “remarkable increase” in the work of the Tribunal in recent years. The decision on the Bangladesh versus Myanmar case was a landmark in that body’s history. However, it was necessary to note that, while some delegations had used the description “extended continental platform” during today’s meeting, that term was not used by the Convention itself. With regard to the advisory opinion of the Seabed Chamber, he joined other delegations in viewing the opinion as excellent, especially with regard to the precautionary principle of activities at sea.
The representative of China agreed that the Tribunal had continued to contribute to the peaceful resolution of maritime disputes. Its first decision indicated the rising influence of the Tribunal and marked a “new stage” of its work. China’s Institute of International Studies had contributed €100,000 to the Tribunal’s Trust Fund, he said, adding that that body was truly becoming the “guardian of international maritime order”.
The representative of Fiji highlighted the progress, including the Seabed Chamber’s first advisory opinion. Fiji was following the developments in the Pacific region to enable seabed mining in the area. The country remained supportive of the Tribunal’s recommendation for the International Seabed Authority to develop model seabed legislation which countries could adopt.
The representative of India said that the Law of the Sea Convention represented the codification of domestic law and the progressive development of international law. It enjoyed universal character. The Tribunal deserved congratulations for its judgment in the dispute between Bangladesh and Myanmar. India also commended the Tribunal for a very comprehensive report.
The representative of Malaysia commended the Tribunal, which had accomplished substantive work, in particular with regard to the dispute on maritime boundaries between Bangladesh and Myanmar in the Bay of Bengal and the advisory opinion of the Seabed Chamber. Similarly, he hoped work would continue on cases number 18 and 19, and that the Tribunal would come up with judgments in an efficient manner. Finally, he noted that some 44 States parties had not yet met their mandatory assessed contributions for 2011, amounting to some €516,000 in unpaid contributions. Malaysia worried that the unpaid funds would affect the Tribunal’s work, and he called on them to settle their debts in full.
The representative of Sierra Leone said that the fact that the Tribunal’s recent judgment had been well received both by the parties involved and by a wide range of other States was a clear manifestation of the international community’s trust. It was also a sign of the Tribunal’s growing influence.
Judge YANAI, in concluding remarks, thanked the States parties for their kind words towards the Tribunal and said he looked forward to hearing further comments during the week.
The Committee then took note of the Tribunal’s report.
International Seabed Authority
NII ALLOTEY ODUNTON, Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority, said that over the past three years, the work of the Authority had increased substantially. The last two weeks had seen five new applications for seabed exploration licences in the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Two of the applications were for exploration of polymetallic sulphides and three related to polymetallic nodules. If all five applications were approved, they would bring the number of active exploration contracts issued by the Authority to 17, as compared to eight active contracts in 2010.
He noted that the Authority’s primary function was to manage the mineral resources of the deep seabed which were the common heritage of humankind. The Authority’s first 10 years of life had been devoted primarily to organizational matters involving putting in place the general institutional framework to implement the Convention and the 1994 implementation agreement related to deep seabed mining. The substantive work programme was primarily aimed at fulfilling the functions set out in that agreement, centred on the assessment and evaluation of the mineral resources of the area as well as the process of establishing an environmental baseline for the areas of primary interest for mining. Since then, while the Authority’s workload had evolved, its resources had not increased. The workload now included not only the supervision of 12 — soon to be 17 — active exploration contracts, but also the development of urgently needed rules, regulations and procedures relating to the protection of the marine environment and future exploitation.
He noted that the voluntary trust fund set up to help meet the travel expenses of members of the Legal and Technical Commission and the Finance Committee had been critical in ensuring that members from developing countries were able to attend meetings of the Authority and, thus, that the decisions reached were truly representative. However, that fund was virtually exhausted. The last contribution had been received in 2010, and without further contributions, it would not be possible to provide financial assistance from the fund this year.
The representative of Fiji, speaking also in his capacity as President of the International Seabed Authority, said that his delegation had been pleased to host a workshop on environmental management needs in November‑December 2011, which had been organized by his country, along with the International Seabed Authority and other partners. He noted with great concern the report on the state of the voluntary trust fund, emphasizing that the “cupboard is bare” and that such a situation might negatively affect the work of future sessions. Fiji further assured member States of its full support for the Authority’s work.
The representative of Japan said that her delegation highly valued efforts made at the International Seabed Authority on draft regulations on exploration and prospecting. She noted that, at the forthcoming Council of the Authority in July, the consolidation of the work plan to draft regulations on polymetallic nodules exploration was expected to begin, and Japan hoped that work would be undertaken in full cooperation among Member States. Further, in view of the uniqueness of the ecosystem in the Area, exploration should be conducted with careful consideration of the environment. Japan, in the course of 2011, had contributed $100,000 to the endowment fund for marine scientific research.
The representative of Jamaica shared the concern of the Authority’s Secretary-General about the depletion of the trust fund and the implication it had for the attendance of meetings by developing country members. Every effort must be made to replenish the fund. He pointed to a significant event taking place in Montego Bay to commemorate the Convention’s anniversary. Jamaica took its responsibility as the host country very seriously and supported the call by the Authority’s Secretary-General for full participation in the meetings.
The representative of Argentina said that the Authority had made remarkable progress since it had been established. The new applications to be considered could more than double the number of contracts it had issued in 2010. Argentina shared the sentiment that the Legal and Technical Commission played a vital role in the Authority’s work. With regard to the preservation of the marine environment, Argentina had always highlighted the importance of setting norms and standards. It called on the Authority to do so in the areas of special environmental interest proposed by the Legal and Technical Commission. It also welcomed the efforts of the Authority to create awareness and urged it to continue conducting activities like the seminar it had hosted in New York. Argentina supported the provision of the resources to enable the Authority to continue its work.
The representative of Ghana said that the importance of the oceans could not be overemphasised, and he called for support for the institutions established under the Law of the Sea Convention. The International Seabed Authority had addressed substantive issues of exploration and exploitation of metallic sulphides. Given the steady increase in the number of new applications before it, the Authority needed all possible support. Ghana urged that adequate funding be made available to all the bodies under the Convention, either from the regular budget or from voluntary contributions, to enable them to work effectively.
The representative of China said his delegation was pleased with the progress made by the International Seabed Authority. That body had very important responsibilities, in particular, for managing resources in the Area. It had finished regulations on the prospecting and exploration of polymetallic sulphides, and had approved many exploration plans in the Area, promoting orderly exploration and strengthening the vitality of international seabed activities. The five recent applications for seabed licenses were a demonstration of that vitality. China joined other parties in participating actively in the Authority’s work on drafting new regulations. Among other achievements, the Authority had made much progress in promoting marine research in the Area and protecting seabed environments, and strengthening the capacity-building of developing countries in that respect.
The representative of India noted a marked interest among States parties in activities in the Area, as evidenced by the five recent applications for licenses. India noted with satisfaction the progress of work in relation to mining and the environment.
The representative of Trinidad and Tobago also noted the progress made by the Authority in the discharge of its mandate. His delegation looked forward to its participation in the July resumption of negotiations for mining cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts, which would add to the already existing codes on sulphides and nodules. The delegation further echoed the position of the representative of Jamaica with regard to the attendance of parties to meetings. The attendance of members at the Authority’s sessions was an obligation and added to the body’s legitimacy.
The representative of Brazil said that the three bodies established by the Convention were complementary, but also had very distinct mandates. As the interpretation of the Convention gained depth over the last three decades, it was interesting to see how the relationship among the three organs had evolved. She asked Mr. Odunton whether regulations on nodules would be brought into compliance with sulphides regulations. In addition, as the work of the Authority had doubled since 2010, it was a matter of priority for the body to develop the regulation of article 82. It was a matter of great satisfaction to see that, at the thirtieth anniversary, the work of all three bodies had gained in scope and intensity.
The representative of the United Kingdom said that the work of the International Seabed Authority was gathering apace. It was important to remember the agreement which had enabled the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to enter into force. The United Kingdom had, earlier in the year, contributed a further sum to the trust fund to enable the participation by scientists from developing countries.
Mr. ODUNTON, in concluding remarks, said there were two funds in the Authority. There was an endowment fund for marine scientific research from which the interest was used for the trust fund for the participation of developing country participants. Because interest rates had nosedived, the interest earned from that fund had become very low. The annual cost of participation incurred by the participants was about $50,000, which was also about the same amount of interest earned on the fund. If contributions were made directly to the trust fund, then the payments could be applied directly.
The meeting then took note of the information provided by the Secretary-General.
Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf
GALO CARRERA HURTADO (Mexico), who had been elected Chair of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf following the untimely passing of Alexandre Tagore Medeiros de Albuquerque of Brazil, addressed the Meeting on the Commission’s work since the last Meeting of States Parties. During the Commission’s twenty-eighth and twenty-ninth sessions, it and its subcommissions had conducted examinations of the revised submission made by Barbados and the submissions by Japan, France in respect to the areas of the French Antilles and the Kerguelen Islands, Uruguay, the Philippines in respect to the Benham Rise region, and the Cook Islands concerning the Manihiki Plateau.
He noted a substantial increase in the Commission’s workload, including in the number of new submissions. The original number of submissions, when the Commission had been established 15 years ago, had been 33. That number had grown to 120. In that context, the body’s original modus operandi, in which States would provide funding, needed to adapt to the current situation and respond to delegations who asked “when is our submission going to be considered?”, he said. In addition, new Commission members would have to be prepared to keep up with the current workload, he said, adding that it was “in the hands of the States parties” to provide the Commission with the resources necessary to perform its work.
The delegate from the European Union highlighted the importance of the Commission’s work for coastal states and the international community, and stressed that the heavy workload and the delays affecting submitting States were matters of great concern. There was a need to ensure that the Commission could perform its functions effectively, in a timely manner and at a high level of quality and expertise. The Commission’s members should also be able to fulfil their duties effectively, including full participation in the Commission sessions and meetings of the subcommissions, taking into account the need to defray the expenses of members from developing countries. The implementation of decision SPLOS/229 by States parties at the twenty-first Meeting should be considered a matter of highest priority.
The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania said his country had been among the early States to have made a submission on the limits of the continental shelf, in compliance with the Convention. He expressed his country’s sincere appreciation to Norway for its support in the preparation of that submission. He expressed concern that the Commission’s heavy workload was creating delays in the processing of submissions, and he supported the bid to explore options available for expediting their processing. The Meeting should consider seeking General Assembly approval to expand the Commission for that purpose.
The representative of Denmark said his country attached great importance to the Commission’s functions. Considering the large number of submissions, there appeared to be broad support for improving its ability to fulfil its duties. In recent Meetings of States Parties, Denmark had strongly advocated measures allowing the Commission to perform its duties in a more efficient and effective manner. A full 21-member Commission at a high level of quality and expertise was indispensable. Denmark, therefore, noted that one regional group had not nominated a sufficient number of candidates. An efficient Commission required an efficient secretariat. Denmark, as such, supported the allocation of adequate resources to the United Nations office that served as the secretariat of the Commission. The country was nominating Martin Vang Heinesen for the Commission, in consultation with all the five Nordic countries. Denmark had decided to contribute $100,000 to the voluntary trust fund for defraying the cost of participation of Commission members from developing countries.
The representative of Brazil said that the question of workload had been a concern for some time. There had been some success, and additional posts had been allotted. The best possible support had also been provided to the Commission. The Commissioners had also been considering how to improve their working methods. Resources and time alone would not solve the problem.
The representative of Mexico highlighted the Commission’s crucial role. With regard to article 56 and the continental shelf, the many needs of States might not have been originally foreseen. Now that the Commission was coming to the end of its five-year period of work, Mexico wished to highlight the pleasant experience it had had working with it.
The representative of Japan noted with satisfaction that the Commission had been making tremendous efforts to consider submissions by States parties and to issue recommendations. As the President had mentioned, States parties had been facing the serious problem of the Commission’s heavy workload. She also noted that, through the adoption of General Assembly resolution 66/231 and following relevant resolutions, an agreement might be reached to provide additional resources. That would help accelerate the work of the Commission. Bearing in mind the importance of the Commission’s work for the maintenance of the “rule of law at sea”, she announced that Japan would contribute $352,000 to the trust fund of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. She hoped that through that contribution, the participation of developing countries would also be encouraged.
The representative of Sri Lanka said he was confident that the significant workload increase would be addressed, in particular with regard to retaining expertise when there was a gap between submission and consideration of submissions. The delegation would like the States parties to consider requesting the soon-to-be elected new Commission to conceive a workload plan that scheduled the time of consideration of each submission according to its unique nature. Sri Lanka would also appreciate it if the Commission would prepare a projected time table as soon as possible, maintaining the high quality of its considerations. It was also open to considering other options for expediting that process.
The representative of Trinidad and Tobago said that the importance of the work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf could not be overstated. The delegation remained concerned that, despite the annual reports, some nominating States were still unable to meet their obligations to the Commission. The situation remained grave, he said. Trinidad and Tobago was hopeful that, with the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention, States parties would take their obligations more seriously. The delegation believed in “continuity and expertise”, and had therefore offered the candidature of Francis Charles for re-election to the Commission on Wednesday.
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