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UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION ON THE LAW OF THE SEA
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United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982
Overview and full text

Last updated 23 October 2007

THE CONVENTION Current status of the Convention
Historical Background FULL TEXTS OF THE CONVENTION Treaty Section site
The Convention - A historical perspective English (htm) |
English (pdf)
Arabic (pdf) Consolidated table of ratifications/accessions, etc. (pdf format)
‘A Constitution for the Oceans’
Remarks by Tommy T.B. Koh, of Singapore, President of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea
English | Français | Español | Arabic | Chinese | Russian
Français (tif) (10Mb)
Français  (htm)
Chinese (pdf) Chronological list of ratifications/accessions/successions
FINAL ACT OF THE THIRD UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE ON THE LAW OF THE SEA Español (pdf) |
Español (wpd)
Russian (pdf) Declarations made upon signature/ratification/accession/succession
English (pdf) Arabic (pdf) IMPLEMENTING AGREEMENTS Settlement of disputes mechanism 
Français (pdf) Chinese Agreement relating to the implementation of Part XI Choice of procedure under article 287
Español (pdf) Russian (pdf) 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement Lists of conciliators and arbitrators
    Lists of experts
1982-2002: 20th ANNIVERSARY OF UNCLOS
 1982-2002: 20th anniversary of the conclusion of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982
(Oceans: the source of life; DOALOS/UNITAR briefing; etc.)
1982-2007: 25th ANNIVERSARY OF UNCLOS
 1982-2007: 25th anniversary of the conclusion of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982
(DOALOS/UNITAR briefing; DOALOS/UNU forum)
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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.

    The Convention was opened for signature on 10 December 1982 in Montego Bay, Jamaica. This marked the culmination of more than 14 years of work involving participation by more than 150 countries representing all regions of the world, all legal and political systems and the spectrum of socio/economic development. At the time of its adoption, the Convention embodied in one instrument traditional rules for the uses of the oceans and at the same time introduced new legal concepts and regimes and addressed new concerns. The Convention also provided the framework for further development of specific areas of the law of the sea.

    The Convention entered into force in accordance with its article 308 on 16 November 1994, 12 months after the date of deposit of the sixtieth instrument of ratification or accession. Today, it is the globally recognized regime dealing with all matters relating to the law of the sea.

    The Convention (full text) comprises 320 articles and nine annexes, governing all aspects of ocean space, such as delimitation, environmental control, marine scientific research, economic and commercial activities, transfer of technology and the settlement of disputes relating to ocean matters.

Some of the key features of the Convention are the following:

* Coastal States exercise sovereignty over their territorial sea which they have the right to establish its breadth up to a limit not to exceed 12 nautical miles; foreign vessels are allowed "innocent passage" through those waters;
* Ships and aircraft of all countries are allowed "transit passage" through straits used for international navigation; States bordering the straits can regulate navigational and other aspects of passage;
* Archipelagic States, made up of a group or groups of closely related islands and interconnecting waters, have sovereignty over a sea area enclosed by straight lines drawn between the outermost points of the islands; the waters between the islands are declared archipelagic waters where States may establish sea lanes and air routes in which all other States enjoy the right of archipelagic passage through such designated sea lanes;
* Coastal States have sovereign rights in a 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) with respect to natural resources and certain economic activities, and exercise jurisdiction over marine science research and environmental protection;
* All other States have freedom of navigation and overflight in the EEZ, as well as freedom to lay submarine cables and pipelines;
* Land-locked and geographically disadvantaged States have the right to participate on an equitable basis in exploitation of an appropriate part of the surplus of the living resources of the EEZ's of coastal States of the same region or sub-region; highly migratory species of fish and marine mammals are accorded special protection;
* Coastal States have sovereign rights over the continental shelf (the national area of the seabed) for exploring and exploiting it; the shelf can extend at least 200 nautical miles from the shore, and more under specified circumstances;
* Coastal States share with the international community part of the revenue derived from exploiting resources from any part of their shelf beyond 200 miles;
* The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf shall make recommendations to States on the shelf's outer boundaries when it extends beyond 200 miles;
* All States enjoy the traditional freedoms of navigation, overflight, scientific research and fishing on the high seas; they are obliged to adopt, or cooperate with other States in adopting, measures to manage and conserve living resources;
* The limits of the territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of islands are determined in accordance with rules applicable to land territory, but rocks which could not sustain human habitation or economic life of their own would have no economic zone or continental shelf;
* States bordering enclosed or semi-enclosed seas are expected to cooperate in managing living resources, environmental and research policies and activities;
* Land-locked States have the right of access to and from the sea and enjoy freedom of transit through the territory of transit States;
* States are bound to prevent and control marine pollution and are liable for damage caused by violation of their international obligations to combat such pollution;
* All marine scientific research in the EEZ and on the continental shelf is subject to the consent of the coastal State, but in most cases they are obliged to grant consent to other States when the research is to be conducted for peaceful purposes and fulfils specified criteria;
* States are bound to promote the development and transfer of marine technology "on fair and reasonable terms and conditions", with proper regard for all legitimate interests;
* States Parties are obliged to settle by peaceful means their disputes concerning the interpretation or application of the Convention;
* Disputes can be submitted to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea established under the Convention, to the International Court of Justice, or to arbitration. Conciliation is also available and, in certain circumstances, submission to it would be compulsory. The Tribunal has exclusive jurisdiction over deep seabed mining disputes.


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UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION ON THE LAW OF THE SEA

AGREEMENT RELATING TO THE IMPLEMENTATION OF
PART XI OF THE CONVENTION

(Full texts)

PREAMBLE


The States Parties to this Convention,

Prompted by the desire to settle, in a spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation, all issues relating to the law of the sea and aware of the historic significance of this Convention as an important contribution to the maintenance of peace, justice and progress for all peoples of the world,

Noting that developments since the United Nations Conferences on the Law of the Sea held at Geneva in 1958 and 1960 have accentuated the need for a new and generally acceptable Convention on the law of the sea,

Conscious that the problems of ocean space are closely interrelated and need to be considered as a whole,

Recognizing the desirability of establishing through this Convention, with due regard for the sovereignty of all States, a legal order for the seas and oceans which will facilitate international communication, and will promote the peaceful uses of the seas and oceans, the equitable and efficient utilization of their resources, the conservation of their living resources, and the study, protection and preservation of the marine environment,

Bearing in mind that the achievement of these goals will contribute to the realization of a just and equitable international economic order which takes into account the interests and needs of mankind as a whole and, in particular, the special interests and needs of developing countries, whether coastal or land-locked,

Desiring by this Convention to develop the principles embodied in resolution 2749 (XXV) of 17 December 1970 in which the General Assembly of the United Nations solemnly declared inter alia that the area of the seabed and ocean floor and the subsoil thereof, beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, as well as its resources, are the common heritage of mankind, the exploration and exploitation of which shall be carried out for the benefit of mankind as a whole, irrespective of the geographical location of States,

Believing that the codification and progressive development of the law of the sea achieved in this Convention will contribute to the strengthening of peace, security, cooperation and friendly relations among all nations in conformity with the principles of justice and equal rights and will promote the economic and social advancement of all peoples of the world, in accordance with the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations as set forth in the Charter,

Affirming that matters not regulated by this Convention continue to be governed by the rules and principles of general international law,

Have agreed as follows:


United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea - Preamble

Part I
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