On 1 October 2021, OSPAR held a hybrid ministerial meeting hosted by the Government of Portugal (postponed from June 2020 due to the pandemic), the outcomes of which included a legally binding OSPAR Decision to establish the North Atlantic Current and Evlanov Sea basin Marine Protected Area (NACES MPA). The NACES MPA (595,196 square km) is established in the high seas and seeks to protect a vitally important area for seabirds. For more information see here and here.
Category Archives: International Organizations
On 20 September 2021 Ecuador submitted, in respect of three regions, its Preliminary information indicative of the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS). For more information see here.
On 9 August 2021 the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) issued a Statement by the President of the Security Council, first presented by the Prime Minister of India, acknowledging an array of maritime safety and security concerns, as well as affirming the international legal instruments applicable or desirable in combating illicit activities at sea. Collaboration, cooperation and capacity development were highlighted. For more information see UN Doc. S/PRST/2021/15 and the press release.
Through a letter dated 25 June 2021, Nauru exercised its rights under Section 1(15)(a) of the 1994 Agreement Relating to the Implementation of Part XI of UNCLOS to request that the Council of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) complete the adoption of the rules, regulations and procedures necessary to facilitate the approval of plans of work for exploitation in the Area. Nauru informed the ISA that a Nauruan entity sponsored by Nauru intends to apply for approval of a plan of work for exploitation in the Area in two years.
According to Section 1(15)(b), following such a request “the Council shall, in accordance with article 162, paragraph 2(o), of the Convention, complete the adoption of such rules, regulations and procedures within two years of the request”. Furthermore, Section 1(15)(c) provides “If the Council has not completed the elaboration of the rules, regulations and procedures relating to exploitation within the prescribed time and an application for approval of a plan of work for exploitation is pending, it shall none the less consider and provisionally approve such plan of work based on the provisions of the Convention and any rules, regulations and procedures that the Council may have adopted provisionally, or on the basis of the norms contained in the Convention and the terms and principles contained in this Annex as well as the principle of non-discrimination among contractors”.
For more information see here.
On 11 May 2021 the chair of the fisheries subsidies negotiations introduced the Fisheries Subsidies: Draft Consolidated Chair Text ahead of the 15 July 2021 meeting of ministers. Weekly thematic meetings to assist in finalizing a text will start 24 May 2021.
For further information see the Chair’s explanatory note accompanying the new fisheries subsidies draft negotiating text and WTO press release.
On 31 March 2021 Iceland submitted to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf a Partial Revised Submission in respect of the western, southern and south-eastern parts of Reykjanes Ridge. This region also featured in Iceland’s 2009 Partial Submission in respect of the Ægir Basin Area and the Western and Southern Parts of Reykjanes Ridge, for which the CLCS adopted Recommendations in 2016. The 2021 Revised Partial Submission “is limited to Reykjanes Ridge, as the Icelandic Government agrees with the recommendations provided for the Ægir Basin Area” (Executive Summary).
On 31 March 2021, the Russian Federation submitted two addenda to the executive summary of the partial revised Submission in respect of the Arctic Ocean. The two addenda, concern: (i) Gakkel Ridge, Nansen and Amundsen Basins, and (ii) Lomonosov Ridge, Alpha Ridge, Mendeleev Rise, Amundsen and Makarov Basins, and the Canadian Basin, respectively. For more information see CLCS.1.REV.2015.LOS.Add1 (Continental Shelf Notification).
On 25 March 2021, pursuant to the Statute of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, Article 16, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) has amended the Rules of the Tribunal (2020 Edition), namely Articles 4-7, 11-13, 16, 19, 31, 36, 39, 42, 45, 76 and 136 (entered into force, 25 March 2021). ITLOS/Press 314 confirms the Rules were amended “with a view to rendering them gender inclusive”. Therefore, references to “he” are now preceded by “she or”, and references to “him” or “his” are now preceded by “her or”. Where possible, “he” is replaced by an office title, such as the President (Article 45) or the Registrar (Article 136). ITLOS does not however have competence to amend the references to he/his/him in the Statute (Article 41, amendments).
The Trade And Cooperation Agreement Between The European Union and The European Atomic Energy Community, of the One Part, and The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, of the Other Part was agreed among UK and EU negotiators on 24 December 2020 and has been provisionally applied as of 1 January 2021 (pending ratification by the EU). The Trade and Cooperation Agreement provides the framework of UK-EU relations in numerous areas of oceans policy, such as international maritime transport (2.1.2), sustainable development, such as trade and sustainable management of marine biological resources and aquaculture, or greenhouse gas emissions reduction measures at the IMO (2.1.11), fisheries (2.5) and offshore renewable energy in the North Sea (2.1.8).
Concerning Gibraltar, the Government of Gibraltar announced on 31 December 2020 that it had reached an in principle agreement with the UK and Spain for a proposed framework for a UK-EU Agreement on Gibraltar’s future relationship with the EU.
The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) reports that on 16 December 2020 the Republic of Costa Rica and the Republic of Ecuador jointly submitted information on the limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured in the Panama Basin. According to the submitting States, this is a partial submission. The consideration of the joint submission will be included in the provisional agenda of the fifty-fourth session of the CLCS. Upon completion of the consideration of the submission, the CLCS shall make recommendations. More information is available here.
Bangladesh has lodged an amended submission on the limits of its outer continental shelf in the Bay of Bengal to the United Nations (22 October 2020). The original submission to the CLCS was made on 25 February 2011. Subsequently, the maritime boundaries of Bangladesh with Myanmar and India were delimited in 2012 and 2014, through international adjudication process. The amended submission has been made to reflect the successful outcomes of those international processes. The press release from the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the United Nations is available here. The submission, as received by the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, is available here.
Pursuant to the Statute of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, Article 16, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) has amended the Rules of the Tribunal (2018 Edition), on the 25 September 2020, namely the addition of Articles 41(7), 74(2), 112(5), 124(3) and 135(1bis) (entered into force, 25 September 2020). In doing so, the Tribunal vests itself with the competence to decide, as an exceptional measure, for public health, security or other compelling reasons, to hold hearings and meetings entirely or in part by video link.
For more information and the text of the new paragraphs see ITLOS Press Release 306.
Following postponement of the fourth session of IGC on a BBNJ Agreement, the President of the IGC has decided to launch the BBNJ Intersessional Work, entitled, Virtual intersessional work of the Intergovernmental Conference on an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, from 14 September 2020. The objective is to continue the dialogue on the key pillars of any future BBNJ Agreement, as well as any cross cutting issues.
For more information see here.
The Meeting of States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (SPLOS) have elected seven Members of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), following three rounds of voting held 24-26 August 2020 (UNCLOS, Annex VI, Article 4; Round 1; Round 2; Round 3).
The States Parties re-elected David Joseph Attard and Markiyan Z. Kulyk and elected Kathy-Ann Brown (Jamaica), Ida Caracciolo (Italy), Jielong Duan (China), María Teresa Infante Caffi (Chile), and Maurice Kamga (Cameroon) (see curricula vitae of candidates nominated by States Parties). The nine year term of each Member will commence 1 October 2020 (Rules of the Tribunal, Article 2).
The term of office for five Members of the Tribunal shall expire 30 September 2020, namely, Tafsir Malick Ndiaye (Senegal), Jean-Pierre Cot (France), Anthony Lucky (Trinidad and Tobago), Zhiguo Gao (China) and Elsa Kelly (Argentina).
On 25 June 2020 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) amended the Rules of Court, adding a new Article 59(2) and amending Article 94(2):
1. The hearing in Court shall be public, unless the Court shall decide otherwise, or unless the parties demand that the public be not admitted. Such a decision or demand may concern either the whole or part of the hearing, and may be made at any time.
2. The Court may decide, for health, security or other compelling reasons, to hold a hearing entirely or in part by video link. The parties shall be consulted on the organization of such a hearing.
1. When the Court has completed its deliberations and adopted its judgment, the parties shall be notified of the date on which it will be read.
2. The judgment shall be read at a public sitting of the Court. The Court may decide, for health, security or other compelling reasons, that the judgment shall be read at a sitting of the Court accessible to the parties and the public by video link. The judgment shall become binding on the parties on the day of the reading.
The amendments entered into force 25 June 2020. Thus, the public hearing on the question of the ICJ’s jurisdiction in the case concerning the Arbitral Award of 3 October 1899 (Guyana v. Venezuela), scheduled for 30 June 2020, will be via videoconference. The representatives of Guyana will address the Court by video link and the public may follow via a live webcast. This dispute extends to a law of the sea dispute, as evident in Guyana’s Application instituting proceedings (paras. 53, 55).
On the 11 June 2020 Singapore and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) signed the Model Agreement: Agreement for the provision of facilities for the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea / a Chamber of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to sit or otherwise exercise its functions in the Republic of Singapore in [case name]. The Model Agreement establishes the terms and conditions under which the Singapore government shall provide appropriate facilities for the Tribunal, or a Chamber of the Tribunal, to sit or otherwise exercise its functions in Singapore (art. 2).
The Model Agreement enables ITLOS to implement Article 1(3) of UNCLOS Annex VI, whereby the Tribunal may sit and exercise its functions outside of Hamburg (Germany) whenever it considers this desirable. Consultations concerning Singapore as a seat for the Tribunal began in 2007, resulting in the 2015 Joint Declaration Signed between Ministry of Law and President of the Tribunal (2). Negotiations on the terms of the Model Agreement, as per Article 7 of the Agreement on the Privileges and Immunities of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, concluded in October 2019.
The United Kingdom published (April 2020) a Draft Working Text for a Fisheries Framework Agreement between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the European Union. The preamble of this document states that:
The UK proposal reflects the fact that, at the end of 2020, the UK will be an independent coastal State and will no longer be bound by the Common Fisheries Policy, and that the current arrangements on quota-sharing will end. In line with the UK’s commitment to best available science, future fishing opportunities should be based on the principle of zonal attachment. The UK proposal is based on relevant international precedents, including the EU’s separate fisheries agreements with other coastal states. Through this agreement, and the annual negotiations it provides for, the UK would fulfil its obligations under UNCLOS to cooperate with the EU on the sustainable management of shared stocks.
The document calls for “annual negotiations on fishing opportunities and access” (Article 2). It proposes that any vessels granted access to fish in the relevant waters must “obtain an authorisation and a licence” (Article 3.1) before commencing fishing operations and that “each Party shall manage its own fisheries independently and may take such measures in its relevant waters as it considers appropriate to ensure the rational and sustainable management of fisheries” (Article 4.1). The document is available here.
A Draft text of the Agreement on the New Partnership with the United Kingdom, which includes a chapter on fisheries, was published (18 March 2020) by the European Union. It is available here.
April 2020 witnessed 3 further communications being submitted to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) concerning the Partial Submission by Malaysia in the South China Sea. On the 10 April 2020 Vietnam submitted Communication dated 10 April 2020 (Viet Nam 1) responding to the CLCS Submission by the Government of Malaysia. Vietnam also submitted Communication dated 10 April 2020 (Viet Nam 2) responding to the previously reported Communications dated 6 March 2020 (Philippines 1 and 2). On the 17 April 2020 China submitted Communication dated 17 April 2020 (China) responding to Communications dated 10 April 2020 (Viet Nam 1 and 2), as well as the previously reported Communication dated 30 March 2020 (Viet Nam).
Accompanying the previously reported Revised Draft Text of A BBNJ Agreement, the President of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) invited delegations to submit by the 3 February 2020 (extended to 20 February 2020) textual proposals for consideration at the fourth session. The secretariat (DOLAS) was requested to produce a compilation of proposals received by that deadline (A/CONF.232/2020/3, para. 9). DOLAS has released two compilations dated 15 April 2020:
- A compilation of textual proposals submitted by delegations for consideration at the fourth session.
- An article-by-article compilation of textual proposals for consideration at the fourth session.
For more information see the documents page for the fourth substantive session.
March 2020 witnessed 3 further communications being submitted to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) concerning the Partial Submission by Malaysia in the South China Sea. On the 6 March 2020, the Philippines submitted Communication dated 6 March 2020 (Philippines 1) responding to the previously reported Communication dated 12 December 2019 (China). The Philippines also submitted Communication dated 6 March 2020 (Philippines 2) responding to CLCS Submission by the Government of Malaysia. On the 23 March 2020 China submitted Communication dated 23 March 2020 (China) which responds to Philippines Communications 1 and 2.
Update (03/04/2020): On the 30 March 2020 Vietnam submitted Communication dated 30 March 2020 (Viet Nam), responding to China’s Communications, dated 12 December 2019 and 23 March 2020 respectively.
Japan has initiated a second World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute complaint regarding Korean support for shipbuilders. Japan has requested WTO dispute consultations with Korea regarding alleged subsidies provided by the Korean government to its shipbuilding industry. The request is the second filed by Japan concerning support measures for Korea’s shipbuilders. Japan initiated its first WTO complaint in November 2018.
Japan claims the challenged measures, which include funds, loans, guarantees, insurance and other financing, are inconsistent with the WTO’s Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM Agreement) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) 1994. Japan’s request was circulated to WTO members on 10 February 2020. This request for consultations is available here.
The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted two resolutions on the 10 December 2019, Resolution 74/19 Oceans and the law of the sea (draft text) and Resolution 74/18 Sustainable fisheries, including through the 1995 Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, and related instruments (draft text).
Turkey voted against adoption of the text of Resolution 74/19 on the basis it does not agree UNCLOS has a “universal and unified character” (135 votes in favour, 1 against (Turkey), and 3 abstentions (Colombia, El Salvador, Venezuela)). Resolution 74/18 is adopted by consensus without a vote. Numerous states were critical of the failure to reach consensus on paragraphs addressing the findings of IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate. The adopted Resolutions only ‘note with concern’ the findings of that report (Resolution 74/19, para. 201; Resolution 74/18, para. 11).
In accordance with Article 76(8) of UNCLOS Malaysia has on 12 December 2019 made a partial submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) regarding its continental shelf in the northern part of the South China Sea. According to Malaysia (Ex Summary, paras. 1.2-1.4), this partial submission concerns the remaining portion of the Malaysian continental shelf in the South China Sea not covered by the 2009 Joint Submission by Malaysia and Viet Nam ‘in the southern part of the South China Sea’.
China has submitted a Communication dated 12 December 2019 which requests the CLCS to not consider the Malaysian Submission due to the existence of a land or maritime dispute (Article 5(a) of Annex I of the Rules of Procedure of the CLCS). Malaysia rejects the existence of any dispute (Ex Summary, para. 4.1).
For more information see here, Executive Summary, Note dated 12 December 2019 from the Permanent Mission of Malaysia and the Communication dated 12 December 2019 (China).
The President of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) on an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction has released an advanced version of the revised text, entitled, Revised draft text of an agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, 27 November 2019. This was requested at the closing of the third session and aims “to enable delegations to take stock and to facilitate further progress in the negotiations at the fourth session of the Conference”. The fourth session will take place in 2020.
On the 21 October 2019 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) adopted amendments to Articles 22, 23, 29, 76 and 79 of its Rules of Court (entry into force 21 October 2019). Of particular interest is the amendment to Article 76(1) to “clarify” the Court has the power to revoke or modify provisional measures on its own initiative:
1. At the request of a party or proprio motu, the Court may, at any time before the final judgment in the case, revoke or modify any decision concerning provisional measures if, in its opinion, some change in the situation justifies such revocation or modification.
The ICJ may, for example, prescribe provisional measures in a case submitted to it by way of Articles 287 and 290 of UNCLOS. For an example of previous requests on the basis of Article 41 of the ICJ Statute and (former) Article 76 of the Rules of Court see the submissions of both Costa Rica and Nicaragua in Certain Activities Carried Out by Nicaragua in the Border Area (Costa Rica v. Nicaragua); Construction of a Road in Costa Rica along the San Juan River (Nicaragua v. Costa Rica), Order of 16 July 2013, Provisional Measures, I.C.J. Reports 2013, p. 230.
For further information see ICJ Press Release No. 2019/42 (21 October 2019).
The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has published a new guidance on inspections of ships by the Port States in accordance with Regulation 1257/2013 on Ship Recycling (SRR). The aim of this EMSA guidance is to assist the Member States and their designated inspectors in their efforts to fulfil the requirements of SRR and Port State Control (PSC) Directive, in relation to inspections covering the respective requirements of these two instruments. It is a reference document that provides both technical information and procedural guidance thus contributing to harmonised implementation and enforcement of the provisions of the SRR and the PSC Directive. The Guidance is available here.
The United Nations International Law Commission (ILC) has decided to include the topic “sea-level rise in relation to international law” in its programme of work and established a Study Group. The Study Group will focus on the subject of sea-level rise in relation to the law of the sea. The ILC expects to receive, by 31 December 2019, examples from States of their practice that could be relevant (even if indirectly) to sea-level rise or other changes in circumstances of a similar nature. Such practice could, for example, relate to baselines and where applicable archipelagic baselines, closing lines, low-tide elevations, islands, artificial islands, land reclamation and other coastal fortification measures, limits of maritime zones, delimitation of maritime boundaries, and any other issues relevant to the subject. More information is available here.
The President of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) on an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction has released an advanced version of the text, entitled, Draft text of an agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, 25 June 2019. This was produced in response to a request during the second session of the IGC. Its aim is “to facilitate further progress in the negotiations”.
For the draft text, see here.
In accordance with Article 76(8) of UNCLOS, Canada has on 23 May 2019 made a partial submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) regarding its continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean. The submission will be included in the provisional agenda of the fifty-second session of the CLCS.
For further information and an executive summary see here and the press release. This follows the 11 April 2019 partial submission of Indonesia in respect of an area North of Papua (Eauripik Rise) and the 26 March 2019 partial submission of Mauritius concerning the Southern Chagos Archipelago region.
The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) has clarified the extent of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles outside Bouvet Island (Bouvetøya). The CLCS recommendation is in line with Norway’s proposal submitted in 2009 and revised in 2015. This means that the Norwegian continental shelf surrounding the island amounts to about 683,730 km2, of which 195,120 km2 is beyond 200 nautical miles. The CLCS recommendation gives Norway a basis for determining the extent of the shelf outside Bouvet Island with binding effect. The Statement by the CLCS Chair, dated 29 March 2019, may be found here.
A mandatory requirement for national governments to introduce electronic information exchange between ships and ports is coming into effect. The requirement, mandatory under IMO’s Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL Convention), is part of a package of amendments under the revised Annex to the FAL Convention, adopted in 2016. The FAL Convention encourages use of a “single window” for data, to enable all the information required by public authorities in connection with the arrival, stay and departure of ships, persons and cargo, to be submitted via a single portal, without duplication. The FAL Convention amendments make it mandatory for ships and ports to exchange FAL data electronically from 8 April 2019. More information is available here and here.
A final step for nine ecologically unique marine areas in the Baltic Sea to be included in a global registry was taken during the UN Biodiversity Conference held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, from 17 to 29 November 2018. Altogether, the nine so-called Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs) cover 23 percent of the Baltic Sea waters. The new EBSAs were identified in Helsinki earlier in February 2018 during the Baltic EBSA workshop convened by the UN Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. More information is available here.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted an amendment to support consistent implementation of the forthcoming 0.50% limit on sulphur in ships fuel oil. The complementary MARPOL amendment will prohibit the carriage of non-compliant fuel oil for combustion purposes for propulsion or operation on board a ship – unless the ship has an exhaust gas cleaning system (“scrubber”) fitted. Installing a scrubber is accepted by flag States as an alternative means to meet the sulphur limit requirement. The complementary amendment is expected to enter into force on 1 March 2020. The press release of the IMO is available here.
Pursuant to the Statute of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, Article 16, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) has amended the Rules of the Tribunal, on the 25 September 2018, namely Articles 60(2) and 61(3). Both provisions have been amended through the addition of:
“If the Tribunal is not sitting, its powers under this article may be exercised by the President of the Tribunal, but without prejudice to any subsequent decision of the Tribunal.”
The amendments immediately entered into force. The rationale for amendment given by the Tribunal was “in the interest of the efficient and cost-effective administration of justice”.
The public hearings in the M/V “Norstar” Case (Panama v. Italy) are scheduled to occur 10-15 September 2018, at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (Hamburg, Germany). Members of the general public are requested to register in advance with the Press Office (email@example.com). A live broadcast will also be available (10 a.m. (CET), 10 September 2018).
For more information and the schedule see the ITLOS press release.
The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has published (11 July 2018) its judgment on Case C-15/17 concerning an oil discharge in the EEZ of Finland by the bulk carrier Bosphorus Queen that took place in 2011. In its decision, the CJEU interpreted the meaning of the expressions “clear objective evidence” and “coastline or related interests” as used in Article 220(6) of the UNCLOS and Article 7(2) of the EC Directive 2005/35 (as amended by EC Directive 2009/123). The CJEU also held that the assessment of a violation, as defined by said articles, takes into consideration:
– the cumulative nature of the damage on several or all of those resources and related interests and the difference in sensitivity of the coastal State with regard to damage to its various resources and related interests;
– the foreseeable harmful consequences of discharge on those resources and related interests, not only on the basis of the available scientific data, but also with regard to the nature of the harmful substance(s) contained in the discharge concerned and the volume, direction, speed and the period of time over which the oil spill spreads
The judgment, as well as the opinion of the Advocate General (delivered on 28 February 2018), may be found here.
Following its launch in April 2017, The Information System of the Global Record of Fishing Vessels, Refrigerated Transport Vessels and Supply Vessels, was released to the general public on 9 July 2018. Data is provided by the official state authorities (reportedly 48 to-date) who remain responsible.
The FAO published its The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2018, 9 July 2018. SOFIA reports provide a “comprehensive, objective and global view of capture fisheries and aquaculture, including associated policy issues” (FAO). Notably, in 2015 fish stocks within biologically sustainable levels decreased to 66.9%, whilst stocks fished at biologically unsustainable levels increased to 33.1%. Among the FAO’s statistical areas, the Mediterranean and Black Sea had the highest percentage of unsustainable stocks, at 62.2%.
Arctic Council: Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation enters into force
The Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation has entered into force on 23 May 2018. This legally binding agreement was signed last year by the eight members of the Arctic Council. The purpose of this agreement is “to increase effectiveness and efficiency in the development of scientific knowledge about the Arctic”, namely by facilitating access to “civilian research infrastructure and facilities and logistical services”, to the “Identified Geographic Areas” and to “scientific information”. The document calls for each party to designate a “competent national authority” as a point of contact to facilitate communication between and among parties. The text of the agreement may be found here. More information about the signature may be found here (USA), here (Canada) and here (Russian Federation).
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is hosting a couple of events on port security. The 11 June 2018 special event on ports will maintain the focus of IMO’s World Maritime Day theme for 2017 “Connecting Ships, Ports and People” through a programme of presentations (the outline of the sessions is available here). This will be followed by a symposium on port security operations (12-13 June), co-hosted with the International Organization of Airport & Seaport Police (INTERPORTPOLICE). This second event will focus on the exchange of best practices on port security and law enforcement. More information about these events may be found in the IMO Circular Letter No. 3815 and also here (IMO) or here (INTERPORTPOLICE).
The European Commission has approved under EU State aid rules a Portuguese tonnage tax scheme. Under this scheme, maritime transport companies will pay taxes on the basis of the net tonnage (i.e. the size of the shipping fleet) operated in maritime transport activities rather than on the basis of their taxable profits. In addition, for certain more environmentally-friendly ships, companies can achieve an additional reduction of 10% to 20% of the tax base under the tonnage tax scheme. Moreover, a seafarer scheme exempts seafarers employed on vessels that are eligible under the tonnage tax scheme from paying personal income tax. It also allows them to pay reduced rates of contribution for social insurance. Both the tonnage tax and seafarer schemes will remain in force for ten years. More information is available here. The proposal of the scheme (Proposta de Lei 111/XIII) may be found here (in Portuguese).
The Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control (Paris MoU) agreed to issue a “Letter of Warning”, starting 1 January 2019, to ensure compliance with the new maximum limits for sulphur in ships fuel oil set by the IMO and which will enter into force a year after that date. The approval of this “information campaign” occurred at the organization’s 51st Committee meeting (7-11 May 2018) where the organization also approved the questionnaire for the Concentrated Inspection Campaign (CIC) on MARPOL Annex VI to be carried out jointly with the Tokyo MoU. More information on the outcome of this meeting may be found here.
Ministers of member states of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe have adopted a declaration entitled Inland Navigation in a Global Setting. This adoption took place at the International Ministerial Conference on Inland Water, on 18 April 2018. The declaration sets forth a number of strategic actions to improve the competitive position of inland waterways across the globe with the aim of creating a sustainable future for inland navigation. The declaration stresses, among other things, the need for an appropriate regulatory frameworks, and the role that the United Nations Conventions for the sector can play in developing them. The declaration may be found here and more information on the subject may be found here.
The Initial IMO strategy on the reduction of GHG emissions from ships was adopted, 13 April 2018, by the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), during its 72nd session at IMO Headquarters (London, United Kingdom). Previously, MEPC 70 approved a roadmap for developing a Comprehensive IMO strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships, scheduled for 2023. The initial strategy includes reduction of carbon intensity (at least 40% by 2030, pursuing efforts towards 70% by 2050), and GHG emissions (at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008) for international shipping.
The European Commission (Task Force for the Preparation and Conduct of the Negotiations with the United Kingdom under Article 50 TEU) has published on 19 March 2018 The Draft Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community. The document highlights the progress made in the negotiation round with the UK of 16-19 March 2018, with reference to a previous draft of 28 February 2018 (available here). As stated by the UK’s Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, there has been an agreement on “specific safeguards when it comes to annual fishing negotiations”, adding that through 2020 the UK “will be negotiating fishing opportunities as an independent coastal state, deciding who can access our waters and on what terms”. The Draft Agreement may be found here.
The Legal Service of the Council of the European Union issued its opinion, 1 March 2018, Directive 2009/73/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 July 2009 concerning common rules for the internal market in natural gas and repealing Directive 2003/55/EC – compatibility with UNCLOS, ST 6738 2018 INIT. The opinion states that:
“The Union does not have jurisdiction to apply energy law on unbundling, transparency, third-party access and regulated tariffs, which is unrelated to the economic exploitation of the EEZ, to pipelines crossing the EEZ of Member States. The application of the Gas Directive to the EEZ would be contrary to Articles 56 and 58 of UNCLOS as interpreted by the Court of Justice” (para. 21).
On the 14 February 2018 the Philippines Presidential Spokesperson issued a statement objecting to the submissions by China of names for undersea features in the “Benham Rise”, submitted to the Sub-Committee on Undersea Feature Names (SCUFN) of the International Hydrographic Organization. The Philippines will not recognize these names. During a public hearing of the Senate Committee on Science and Technology, 26 February 2018, a reason for the objection was the violation of the Philippines’ sovereign rights, resulting from the lack of consent given to undertake the hydrographic surveys at the basis of the submissions.
Representatives of governments and the social partners gathered at the International Labour Organization in Geneva on 22-26 January 2018 have adopted a revised code of practice on safety and health in shipbuilding and ship repair. The new code reflects the many changes in the industry, including the use of robotic systems, over the last 43 years since an earlier code was adopted. It focuses on the need for a preventive approach based on occupational safety and health management systems, management of change and safe work plans among others. The draft code may be found here. An overview of the document provided by the NGO IndustriALL Global Union may be found here.
On the 24 December 2017 the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted the previously postponed Resolution 74/249, International legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. This initiates formal negotiations of a new legally binding instrument, convening four intergovernmental conference sessions from 2018 to 2020.
For more information see the final text, released 19 January 2018, available here.