The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) has recently delivered a verdict on the murder of two Keralite fishermen in the Enrica Lexie case.
- In 2015, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Italy filed a lawsuit against India for the detention of its two marines and brought the case before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).
- The matter was subsequently referred by ITLOS to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA).
- India argued that the marines had breached the UNCLOS freedom of navigation rights and should pay compensation.
- It is an international agreement that resulted from the third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III).
- It was adopted in 1982 and replaced the quad-treaty 1958 Convention on the High Seas and came into force in 1994.
- It is also called the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty.
- It defines the rights and responsibilities of nations with respect to their use of the world's oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources.
- Currently 167 countries and the European Union have joined in the Convention.
- India signed the Convention in 1982 and ratified in 1995.
- The Convention has created three new institutions on the international scene:
1) INTERNATIONAL TRIBUNAL FOR THE LAW OF THE SEA (ITLOS)
- It is an independent judicial body established by the UNCLOS to adjudicate disputes arising out of the interpretation and application of the Convention.
- Disputes relating to the Convention related to the living resources of the sea, protection and preservation of the marine concern the delimitation of maritime zones, navigation, conservation and management environment and marine scientific research.
- It is composed of 21 independent members.
- It is open to States Parties to the Convention and other than States Parties like state enterprises and private entities.
2) INTERNATIONAL SEABED AUTHORITY (ISA)
- It is an intergovernmental body based in Kingston, Jamaica, established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
- It is mandated to organize, regulate and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, an area underlying most of the world's oceans.
- All Parties to the 1982 UNCLOS are members of ISA.
3) COMMISSION ON THE LIMITS OF THE CONTINENTAL SHELF (CLCS)
- It has been assigned to play mainly two significant roles in the establishment of the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles of a Coastal State.
- to evaluate the claim of a Coastal State for an area of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.
- provide scientific and technical advice to the Coastal State in its preparation of its submission of the claim.
- It shall consist of 21 members who shall be experts in the field of geology, geophysics or hydrography, elected by States Parties to the Convention from among their nationals.
UNCLOS DIVIDES MARINE AREAS INTO FIVE MAIN ZONES:
- There is the low-water line called Baseline along the coast as officially recognized by the coastal state.
- INTERNAL WATERS: These are waters on the landward side of the baseline from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.
o Each coastal state has full sovereignty over its internal waters as like its land territory. E.g. bays, ports, inlets, rivers and lakes that are connected to the sea.
- TERRITORIAL SEA: It extends seaward up to 12 nautical miles (nm) from its baselines.
o The coastal states have sovereignty and jurisdiction over the territorial sea. These rights extend not only on the surface but also to the seabed, subsoil, and even airspace.
- CONTIGUOUS ZONE: It extends seaward up to 24 nm from its baselines.
o It is an intermediary zone between the territorial sea and the high seas.
o The coastal state has the right to both prevent and punish infringement of fiscal, immigration, sanitary, and customs laws within its territory and territorial sea.
o Unlike the territorial sea, the contiguous zone only gives jurisdiction to a state on the ocean’s surface and floor. It does not provide air and space rights.
- EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE (EEZ): Each coastal State may claim an EEZ beyond and adjacent to its territorial sea that extends seaward up to 200 nm from its baselines.
o Within EEZ, a coastal state has sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring, exploiting, conserving and managing natural resources, whether living or non-living, of the seabed and subsoil.
o Rights to carry out activities like the production of energy from the water, currents and wind.
o Unlike the territorial sea and the contiguous zone, the EEZ only allows for the above-mentioned resource rights. It does not give a coastal state the right to prohibit or limit freedom of navigation or overflight, subject to very limited exceptions.
- HIGH SEAS: The ocean surface and the water column beyond the EEZ are referred to as the high seas.
o It is beyond any national jurisdiction. States can conduct activities in these areas as long as they are for peaceful purposes, such as transit, marine science, and undersea exploration.
DISPUTE RESOLUTION MECHANISM UNDER UNCLOS
UNCLOS provides for a dispute resolution mechanism regarding maritime boundaries in which member states can choose either the
International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea
International Court of Justice
Arbitral tribunal (constituted in accordance with Annex VII, UNCLOS)
Special arbitral tribunal (constituted in accordance with Annex VIII, UNCLOS).