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).
For further information the final texts will be available at Resolution 74/19 and Resolution 74/18.
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’.
Figure 1.1 The Outer Limits of the Continental Shelf in the South China Sea (Ex Summary, p. 4).
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.
For the revised draft text see here. An outline of changes made to the first draft text is available here.
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.