• UN Convention on the Law of Sea is the international agreement that resulted from the 3rd United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea.
  • It provides a regulatory framework for the use of the world’s seas and oceans, 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.
  • 167 countries plus the UN Observer state Palestine, as well as the Cook Islands, Niue and the European Union have joined in the Convention.
  • The convention has created 3 new institutions on the international scene,
  1. International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea,
  2. International Seabed Authority,
  3. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
  • The most significant issues covered by convention were setting limits, navigation, archipelagic status and transit regimes, exclusive economic zones (EEZs), continental shelf jurisdiction, deep seabed mining, the exploitation regime, protection of the marine environment, scientific research, and settlement of disputes.
  • The convention gives a clear definition on Internal Waters, Territorial Waters, Archipelagic Waters, Contiguous Zone, Exclusive Economic Zone, and Continental Shelf.
  • Mineral resource exploitation in deep seabed areas beyond national jurisdiction is regulated through an International Seabed Authority and the Common heritage of mankind principle.
  • According to UNCLOS, Landlocked states are given a right of access to and from the sea, without taxation of traffic through transit states.
  • Ships and aircraft of all countries are allowed “transit passage” through straits used for international navigation.
  • Coastal States have sovereign rights in EEZ with respect to natural resources and certain economic activities, and exercise jurisdiction over marine science research and environmental protection.
  • All other States have freedom of navigation and over flight in the EEZ, as well as freedom to lay submarine cables and pipelines.
  • Land-locked and geographically disadvantaged States have the right to participate on an equitable basis in exploitation of an appropriate part of the surplus of the living resources of the EEZ’s of coastal States of the same region or sub-region.
  • 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 for peaceful purposes.
  • Disputes can be submitted to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea established under the Convention, to the International Court of Justice, or to arbitration.
  • The Tribunal has exclusive jurisdiction over deep seabed mining disputes.


  • International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea is an independent judicial body established by the UNCLOS to adjudicate disputes arising out of the interpretation and application of the UNCLOS Convention.
  • Based in Hamburg, Germany.
  • The Tribunal is composed of 21 independent members, elected from among persons enjoying the highest reputation for fairness and integrity and of recognized competence in the field of the law of the sea.
  • The Tribunal is open to States Parties to the Convention
  • It is also open to entities other than States Parties, i.e., States or intergovernmental organizations which are not parties to the Convention and to state enterprises and private entities.
  • Neeru Chadha has become the first Indian woman to be elected as a judge at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Seas (ITLOS).


International Sea Bed Authority

  • It is an intergovernmental body established by the Law of the Sea Convention to organize, regulate and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.
  • It helps in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 14 “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources”.
  • Base – Kingston, Jamaica.
  • UNCLOS defines the international seabed area as “the seabed and ocean floor and the subsoil thereof, beyond the limits of national jurisdiction”.
  • It has obtained its observer status in the United Nations.
  • The Authority operates by contracting with private and public corporations and other entities authorizing them to explore, and eventually exploit, specified areas on the deep seabed for mineral resources essential for building most technological products.
  • The Convention also established a body called the Enterprise which is to serve as the Authority’s own mining operator, but no concrete steps have been taken to bring this into being.
  • With a 15 year contract period ISA has allowed 8 players to exploit sea bed for polymetallic nodules.
  • The 8 contractors are India, Germany, Russian Federation, Interoceanmetal Joint Organization (IOM) (Bulgaria, Cuba, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland and Russian Federation), Republic of South Korea, China, Japan, and France.
  • In 2008, the Authority received two new applications coming for the first time from private firms in developing island nations of the Pacific like Nauru and Tonga.
  • India & ISA
  • India was re-elected as a member of the Council of ISA (2017-2020).
  • India’s exclusive rights to explore polymetallic nodules from seabed in Central Indian Ocean Basin have been extended by 5 years.
  • India is implementing a programme on exploration of Polymetallic nodules through the Ministry of Earth Sciences.

International Whaling Commission

It was set up under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry.

  • Its objectives are
  1. Setting out catch limits by species and area which may be zero as it the case for commercial whaling,
  2. Designating specified areas as whale sanctuaries,
  3. Protection of calves and females accompanied bycalves,
  4. Prescribe open and closed seasons and areas for whaling and restrictions on hunting methods.
  • An integral part of the Convention is legally binding Schedule which sets out specific measures.
  • The Commission also co-ordinates and funds conservation work on many species of cetaceans.
  • The IWC has no ability to enforce any of its decisions through penalty imposition.
  • India is a member of IWC.
  • Aboriginal subsistence hunting is allowed in several countries including the US, Russia, Greenland, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean for people who are historically and culturally depend on whale for subsistence and not for profit.
  • In 1982 the IWC adopted a moratorium on commercial whaling and is binding on all the members.
  • Norway and Iceland allow commercial whaling,objecting the moratorium.
  • Russian has also registered an objection to the moratorium decision but does not exercise it.
  • Japan continued to hunt whales despite the moratorium, exploiting a loophole that allowed hunting for “scientific research”.
  • 2018 meeting of IWC held in Brazil adopted “Florianopolis Declaration” proposed by Brazil.
  • The declaration insists that commercial whaling is no longer a necessary economic activity and would allow the recovery of all whale population to pre-industrial whaling levels.
  • It also aimed to give indefinite protection for the world’s whale population.
  • It is a non-binding agreement and was backed by 40 countries, with 27 pro-whaling states voting against.
  • Japan recently announced its withdrawal from IWC and will resume commercial whaling.


  • Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System for Africa and Asia (RIMES) is an intergovernmental institution registered with UN, for the generation and application of early warning information.
  • It was established in 2009, evolved from the efforts of countries in Africa and Asia, in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
  • It works with 12 member states and 19 collaborating countries.
  • The member states are Bangladesh, Cambodia, Comoros, India, Lao PDR, Maldives, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Seychelles, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste.
  • It works with a multi-hazard framework for the generation and communication of early warning information and capacity building for preparedness and response to trans-boundary hazards.
  • It operates from its regional early warning center in Pathumthani, Thailand.
  • At the 3rd ministerial meeting of RIMES in 2017, the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) inaugurated the Ocean Forecasting System for Comoros, Madagascar, and Mozambique.
  • The meeting was held at Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
  • India and RIMES – Odisha government signed an MoU with RIMES for enhancing early warning system for effective management of disasters in the state.
  • It will help state government to integrate new generation digital algorithm-based technologies and best practices from 48 RIMES member countries with the Odisha State Disaster Management Authority (OSDMA).

Seabed 2030

  • Seabed 2030 project was launched at the United Nations (UN) Ocean Conference in June 2017.
  • It is a collaborative project between the Nippon Foundation of Japan and the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO).
  • It aims to bring together all available bathymetric data (depth and shape of the ocean floor) to create a map of the world ocean floor by 2030 and make it available to all.
  • The data is fundamental for understanding ocean circulation, tides, tsunami forecasting, fishing resources, underwater geo-hazards, cable and pipeline routing, mineral extraction, oil and gas exploration.
  • The project is aligned with the UN’s SDG 14 to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.
  • It comprises a global center and 4 regional centers (Arctic and North Pacific center, Atlantic and Indian Ocean center, South and West Pacific center and Southern Ocean center).

Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

  • It was established by a resolution adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO.
  • It assists governments to address their individual and collective ocean and coastal management needs, through the sharing of knowledge, information and technology.
  • It also coordinates and fosters the establishment of regional intergovernmental coordinating tsunami warning and mitigation systems in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, in the North East Atlantic, Mediterranean and Caribbean seas.
  • HQ – Paris
  • There are 149 members of which India is also a member.
  • General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO), Tara Expeditions, Océanopolis Brest are some of its partners.


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