DR Ambedkar IAS Academy

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is an international agreement that establishes guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources. 

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

UNCLOS is also known as the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea Treaty that defines the rights and responsibilities of nations towards the use of the world’s oceans. 

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea lays down a comprehensive regime of law and order in the world’s oceans and seas establishing rules governing all uses of the oceans and their resources. 

It enshrines the notion that all problems of ocean space are closely interrelated and need to be addressed as a whole.

UNCLOS Background

The third session of the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III) which was held between 1973 to 1982 led to the formation of the current convention named UNCLOS.

The Convention which concluded in the year 1982 replaced the quad-treaty of 1958 also known as Convention on the High Seas. 

UNCLOS became effective in the year 1994 and later in the year 2016, UNCLOS was joined by 167 countries and the European Union.

Formation of UNCLOS

UNCLOS was formed by replacing the older concept of the 17th-century known as ‘freedom of the seas’ where the national rights were only limited to a specified belt of water that extended usually up to 3 nautical miles (5.6 km) from a nation’s coastlines. 

Therefore, the belts of water that were beyond the national boundaries were considered international waters.

Later, during the early 20th century, several nations addressed their needs for extending the national claims that included mineral resources, protection of fish stocks, and supply of resources to enforce pollution controls. 

As a result, in the year 1945, President Harry S. Truman extended United States control to all the natural resources of its continental shelf. 

Soon, between 1946-1950, three more nations namely Chile, Peru, and Ecuador also extended their rights to a distance of 370 km to cover their Humboldt Current fishing grounds whereas the other nations extended their territorial seas to 22 km.

The issues related to the varying claims of the territorial waters were raised in the year 1967 in the United Nations. During the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III) of 1973, the UN ambassador, Mr. Arvid Pardo requested a legal power that could bring about international governance over the oceanic floor and bed.

Even as the name of the nautical law suggests a United Nations’ involvement, the UN does not have any major functional role in the working of UNCLOS.

UNCLOS Features

Some of the important features of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea are listed below:

Nations are provided with full money rights by UNCLOS for a 200-mile zone along the shoreline.

The sea and oceanic bed extending to this area are regarded to be the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of a country and that country can use these waters for their economic utilization.

Another important organization that plays a vital role in UNCLOS operations is the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Other important parties involved in Nautical Law and its functioning are the International Seabed Authority and the International Whaling Commission.

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