Climate change International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS) Marine pollution

The Relationship between the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the UN Climate Change Regime: What Role for Article 237 UNCLOS?

By: Philipp P Nickels (Research Fellow and PhD Candidate, NCLOS, Faculty of Law, UiT)


Matters commented on: request for an advisory opinion, ITLOS, COSIS, inter-regime relationships

1 Introduction*

On 12 December 2022, the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law (COSIS) submitted a request to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) to render an advisory opinion. In its request, COSIS asked ITLOS to clarify ‘the specific obligations of State Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [UNCLOS] […] to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment in relation to the deleterious effects that result or are likely to result from climate change’ as well as ‘to protect and preserve the marine environment in relation to climate change impacts’ more broadly (Request for an Advisory Opinion).

Biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) Blog Ecosystem approach Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS) Marine Protected Areas Rights of Nature

Introduction to the outcomes of the 2023 NCLOS Conference on “Ocean Commons”

By: Konstantinos Deligiannis-Virvos (UiT, Norwegian Centre for the Law of the Sea)

Matter commented on: NCLOS Conference on Ocean Commons, 1-3 November 2023, Tromsø, Norway.


The term “commons” usually brings into mind the problem of the tragedy of the commons: a concept in environmental science and economics that describes a situation in which individuals belonging to a group, acting out of self-interest, deplete shared resources, leading to the detriment of the entire group (Hardin, 1968). Within the law of the sea, the term “ocean commons” generally refers to marine areas beyond national jurisdiction, where no State holds sovereignty, sovereign rights, or exclusive jurisdiction. This designation aligns with the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which distinguishes between maritime zones under national jurisdiction and areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) Ecosystem approach

Operationalizing the Ecosystem Approach in the BBNJ Treaty

By: Vito De Lucia

PDF: Vito de Lucia_181022_NCLOS Blog.pdf

Matter commented on: 5th Session of the Intergovernmental Conference towards a new treaty on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, Further Refreshed Draft Text, A/CONF.232/2022/CRP.13/Add.1

1         Introduction: IGC5 and the “Further Refreshed Draft Text”

After the long COVID hiatus and the digital intersessional discussions, the BBNJ negotiations re-started in earnest in 2022 with two sessions of the intergovernmental conference (IGC): the fourth and last of the sessions stipulated in the UNGA resolution (A/RES/72/249) that launched the IGC was held in March 2022; and an additional fifth session, inevitable given the state of the negotiations at the end of IGC4 was held in August 2022 (IGC5). While IGC5 was not conclusive, much progress was made on many of the key issues, and a series of revisions of the negotiating text were produced by the Presidency during IGC5 (so called “refreshed” texts), in order to streamline the negotiations. At the end of an intense negotiating session, and amidst renewed commitments to finalize the BBNJ treaty, IGC5 was suspended without a consensus on a text, but with the view of resuming the same fifth session as soon as possible in 2023 (rather than providing for a sixth session of the IGC). This clearly gives the sense of optimism about concluding the negotiations at the resumed session of IGC5, despite disappointment of the parts of many delegations, which gave rise to emotional closing statements, especially on the part of Pacific and Small Island State delegations, for the missed opportunity to close the deal in August, as reported by the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB, p. 10). However, this new pause gives room for some last-minute reflections.

In this blog post, I shall take the opportunity to articulate some concrete suggestions for a meaningful integration of the ecosystem approach (EA) in the BBNJ treaty, by linking its role as one of the overarching principles with the role that strategic environmental assessments (SEAs) may play in its operationalization. The analysis proceeds on the basis of the provisions and formulations contained in the latest draft circulated during IGC5, the further refreshed draft text (A/CONF.232/2022/CRP.13/Add.1). It is important to note, however, that the further refreshed draft text does not necessarily represent consensus, as adamantly expressed by China (ENB, p.9) at IGC5, which stressed that “in the drafting of this document, all views should have been treated equally and the document should have reflected all issues” (ENB, p.9), emphasizing at the same time how the BBNJ negotiations is a state-led process. It is also unclear at this point whether this further refreshed draft text will be the basis for further negotiations at the resumed session of IGC5.

Arctic Delimitation

The Problems of Overlapping Governance on the Arctic Continental Shelves Pending Delineation and Delimitation

By: Dr. Ekaterina Antsygina (Postdoctoral Researcher, The University of Hamburg) & Cornell Overfield (Research Analyst, Center for Naval Analyses)

Corresponding author: Dr. Ekaterina Antsygina,

Pdf: Ekaterina Antsygina and Cornell Overfield_04102022_ the NCLOS blog_ final.pdf

Matter commented on: Problems of overlapping governance on Arctic continental shelves

1. Introduction

The continental shelf has been the dispute par excellence in the narrative that the Arctic is an ungoverned region. The seabed of the Central Arctic Ocean is subject to overlapping “claims” by Canada, Russia, and Denmark (via Greenland), and alarming reports have suggested that competing rights over the resources might culminate in conflict between Russia and the West. This myth has been widely challenged, but another myth lives on: that the seabed beyond 200 nautical miles (M) remains ungoverned until the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) issues recommendations on the outer limits of continental shelves and the asserting states divvy up the pie. In fact, these states already can and do exercise control over the seabed areas they assert by virtue of the doctrine of inherent rights.

This coastal state prerogative creates problems at all stages before a final delineation of the shelf’s outer limits and a final delimitation of overlapping entitlements. Most importantly, where entitlements overlap and have not yet been delimited, potential users might proceed with some activities without approval from all states asserting entitlements to the relevant shelf area. Action based on unilateral decision could sharpen tensions and undercut trust among Arctic states. To minimize the risk of this pending the final delimitation of the Arctic continental shelves, Arctic states should establish a mechanism to authorize activities on overlapping entitlements beyond 200 M. This mechanism should be created as soon as possible among the United States, Canada, Denmark, and Russia (subject to changes in the geopolitical situation). On this backdrop, this blog post explores legal issues connected with activities on overlapping continental shelf entitlements in the Arctic Ocean and pre-delineation and pre-delimitation problems that the Arctic coastal States are facing.

Northern Sea Route Security law

New Draft Law on the Russian Arctic Straits – Putin’ Money Where the Mouth is?

By: Jan Jakub Solski

PDF: Jan Solski_14092022_NCLOS blog.pdf

Matter commented on: Draft Federal Law of the Russian Federation “On the Amendments to the Federal Law on the Internal Sea Waters, Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone of the Russian Federation, 31 July 1998, No. 155-FZ (on the procedure for the passage of foreign warships and other sea vessels operated for non-commercial purposes in the internal sea waters of the Russian Federation)” (2022 Draft Law).

1         Introduction

The 2022 Draft Law was introduced for consideration in the Russian Duma in August 2022. It deals with the right of entry of foreign warships to internal waters in the Northern Sea Route (NSR) and aims to adjust the regime of innocent passage in the Russian territorial sea. This blog analyses the proposed legislation in the larger context of other documents recently adopted by the Russian Federation (unfortunately only available in Russian):

  • Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation of 16 November 2021, No. 1959, “On Approving the List of Geographic Coordinates of Points Determining the Position of Baselines for measuring the breadth of the territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the Russian Federation off the mainland coast and islands of the Russian Federation in the Arctic Ocean and on declaring invalid on the territory of the Russian Federation the section “Arctic Ocean” of the list of Geographic Coordinates of Points Determining the Position of Baselines for measuring the breadth of the territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the USSR off the mainland coast and islands of the Arctic Ocean, the Baltic and Black Seas, approved by the decision of the Council of Ministers of the USSR ,15 January 1985, No. 56-22 (2021 Decree on Arctic Baselines), and
  • Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of 31 July 2022, No. 512 “On the approval of the Maritime Doctrine of the Russian Federation” (2022 Maritime Doctrine).
Security law

Guidelines for Grey Zone Naval Incidents: Distinguishing between the Rules of Armed Conflict and Law Enforcement

By: Alexander Lott

PDF Version: Alexander Lott_Guidelines for Grey Zone Naval Incidents_NCLOSblog_290422

Matter commented on: Hybrid naval warfare; Distinction between naval warfare and maritime law enforcement

1. Introduction

This short blog post aims to provide guidance for parties to hybrid naval warfare for determining whether the rules of armed conflict or law enforcement are applicable to various situations where force has been used against ships. The guidelines are based on the relevant case law and systemized into three scenarios: first, a commercial ship vs. government ship/warship (State vessel) scenario; second, a State vessel vs. commercial ship scenario; third, a State vs. State scenario. The analysis focuses on the use of force against ships, but the rules apply mutatis mutandis also in relation to aircraft and installations and structures at sea.