1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)  

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Tokyo Harbour
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 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.
Atlantic coast, Canada
Part XII of the Convention (articles 192 - 237) addresses Protection and Preservation of the Marine Environment and gives basic obligations to prevent, reduce and control pollution from land-based sources; pollution from sea-bed activities subject to national jurisdiction; pollution from activities in the Area; pollution by dumping; pollution from vessels; and pollution from or through the atmosphere (articles 207 - 212).
The Red Sea, Jordan
The Convention entered into force on 16 November 1994. Some of the key features of the Convention relevant to prevention of marine pollution are the following:
The Strait of Bosphorus, Turkey
  • 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;
  • 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;
  • 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;
  • States bordering enclosed or semi-enclosed seas are expected to cooperate in managing living resources, environmental and research policies and activities;
  • 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.

Relation between UNCLOS and the London Convention 1972

All States parties to UNCLOS are legally bound to adopt laws and regulations and take other measures to control pollution by dumping, and they must be no less effective than the global rules and standards (article 210), which are considered to be those of the London Convention 1972. They will also be obliged to enforce such laws and regulations in accordance with article 216 of UNCLOS. This is an important consequence in view of the fact that as many as 77 out of 145 States Parties (as of 5 January 1999) are not a Contracting Party to the London Convention 1972 (click here to see a list of these states).

Revised: December 09, 2005.

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