United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which came into force on November 16, 1994, is an international treaty that provides a regulatory framework for the use of the world’s seas and oceans, inter alia, to ensure the conservation and equitable usage of resources and the marine environment and to ensure the protection and preservation of the living resources of the sea. UNCLOS also addresses such other matters as sovereignty, rights of usage in maritime zones, and navigational rights. As of January 10 2014, 166 States have ratified, acceded to, or succeeded to, UNCLOS. The full text and status of UNCLOS can be accessed through the United Nations Division for Oceans Affairs and the Law of the Sea.
Part XV of UNCLOS sets forth rules for the resolution of disputes between State Parties arising out of the interpretation or application of UNCLOS. Pursuant to Article 287(1) of UNCLOS, when signing, ratifying, or acceding to UNCLOS, a State may make a declaration choosing one or more of the following means for settling such disputes:
- the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg, Germany;
- the International Court of Justice in The Hague, The Netherlands;
- ad hoc arbitration (in accordance with Annex VII of UNCLOS); or
- a “special arbitral tribunal” constituted for certain categories of disputes (established under Annex VIII of UNCLOS).
Pursuant to Article 287(3) of UNCLOS, arbitration under Annex VII is the default means of dispute settlement if a State has not expressed any preference with respect to the means of dispute resolution available under Article 287(1) of UNCLOS (and has not expressed any reservation or optional exceptions pursuant to Article 298 of UNCLOS). Likewise, pursuant to Article 287(5) of UNCLOS, if the parties have not accepted the same procedure for the settlement of the dispute, arbitration under Annex VII is the default means of dispute settlement (again subject to same exceptions or reservations pursuant to Article 298).
Having administered all but one of the UNCLOS Annex VII arbitrations to date, the PCA has gained unique experience in dealing with, among other things, diverse organizational, procedural, and substantive issues that may arise in such arbitrations.
Through an exchange of letters between the Secretary-General of the PCA and the Registrar of ITLOS, the PCA and ITLOS have agreed to cooperate with respect to relevant legal and administrative matters. Under the arrangement, the PCA and ITLOS have undertaken to exchange documents, particularly those connected with disputes under Annex VII of UNCLOS, and to explore cooperation in other areas of interest.
Further information on recent developments at the PCA in the field of ocean affairs and the law of the sea may be found in the PCA’s reports to the UN Division on Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea.
UNCLOS Annex VII cases arbitrated under the auspices of the PCASince the 1982 Convention came into force in 1994, the PCA has served as registry for 14 arbitrations under Annex VII of UNCLOS. The cases arbitrated under the auspices of the PCA include the following:
- Dispute Concerning the Detention of Ukrainian Naval Vessels and Servicemen (Ukraine v. the Russian Federation), initiated in April 2019 and still pending
- Dispute Concerning Coastal State Rights in the Black Sea, Sea of Azov, and Kerch Strait (Ukraine v. the Russian Federation), instituted in September 2016 and still pending
- The "Enrica Lexie" Incident (Italy v. India), instituted in June 2015 and still pending
- The Duzgit Integrity Arbitration (Malta v. São Tomé and Príncipe), instituted in October 2013 and decided by a final award rendered on 18 December 2019
- The Arctic Sunrise Arbitration (the Netherlands v. the Russian Federation), instituted in October 2013 and decided by an award rendered on 10 July 2017
- The Atlanto-Scandian Herring Arbitration (Denmark in respect of the Faroe Islands v. the European Union), instituted in August 2013 and terminated by a tribunal order issued in September 2014, following an agreement between the Parties reached in August 2014
- The Republic of Philippines v. The People's Republic of China, instituted in January 2013 and decided by an award rendered on 12 July 2016.
- The ARA Libertad Arbitration (Argentina v. Ghana), instituted in October 2012 and terminated by a tribunal order issued in November 2013 following an agreement between the Parties reached in September 2013
- The Chagos Marine Protected Area Arbitration (Mauritius v. United Kingdom), instituted in December 2010 and decided by a final award rendered on 18 March 2015
- The Bay of Bengal Maritime Boundary Arbitration (Bangladesh v. India), instituted in October 2009 and decided by a final award rendered on 7 July 2014
- Barbados v. Trinidad and Tobago, instituted in February 2004 and decided by a final award rendered on 11 April 2006
- Guyana v. Suriname, instituted in February 2004 and decided by a final award rendered on 17 September 2007
- Malaysia v. Singapore, instituted in July 2003 and terminated by an award on agreed terms rendered on 1 September 2005
- The MOX Plant Case (Ireland v. United Kingdom), instituted in November 2001 and terminated through a tribunal order issued on 6 June 2008