Unit 3: Customary International Law and the Law of the Sea

The discussion in this unit uses the Law of the Sea materials to provide a deeper familiarity with the doctrine of customary international law. 

Reading Guide

I. Customary International Law

Reference Materials:  Hugh Thirlway, “The Sources of International Law”in Evans (ed.), International Law (3rd ed., 2010), pp. 95-108

Nico Krisch on public goods in The Decay of Consent in International Law, pp.3-6

Lawrence Solum, Legal Theory Lexicon: Efficiency, Pareto, and Kaldor-Hicks

A. The Continental Shelf

1. Reference Material: Malcolm Evans, “The Law of the Sea” in Evans (ed.), International Law (3rd ed., 2010), pp. 651-7;pp 677-80.

2. The North Sea Continental Shelf Cases (ICJ 1969)

a. North Sea Cases:  Sketch Map

b. Germany v. Denmark; Germany v. Netherlands and Dissenting Opinion of Judge Lachs (ICJ 1969)

3. The Law of the Sea Convention (1982)

a. Sketch Diagram of Sea Claims under LOS Convention

b. LOS Convention 1982, Arts 55-85

4. Colombia v. Nicaragua

a. Summary of 2012 ICJ decision

b. Nicaragua 2013 application to the ICJ (excerpt)

c. BBC article on 2013 application

B. Fisheries

1. Reference Material:  Malcolm Evans, “The Law of the Sea” in Evans (ed.), International Law (3rd ed., 2010), pp. 657-65.

2. United Kingdom v. Norway (ICJ 1951)

3.LOS Convention 1982, Arts 2–15

C. Exclusive Economic Zone

1. J. Charney, The Persistent Objector Rule and the Development of Customary International Law, 56 BYIL 1 (1985) (extracts)

2. LOS Convention 1982, Arts 55–59

3. Reagan Proclamation on the Exclusive Economic Zone

4. Disputes over Activities in EEZ

a. Robert Beckman, “Geopolitics, International Law and the South China Sea” (extracts from overview of April, 2012) (map showing conflicting EEZ claims; line for China reflects approximately the “nine-dashed line” referred to by Beckman)

b. US-China 2009 Dispute re USNS Impeccable in China’s EEZ

c. US-China 2010 Dispute re US-Korea “war games”

d. Note also press coverage of China-Japan dispute over Diaoyu/Senkaku islands (map showing conflicting claims) andof Chinese island construction on reefs

e. J. Ashley Roach, China’s Shifting Sands in the Spratlys

5. Enforcement of Laws of the Coastal State and Prompt Release of Vessels and Crew

a. LOS Convention 1982, Arts 73, 292, 293, 300

b. “Juno Trader” Case (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines v. Guinea-Bissau), extracts from Judgment and Separate Opinion of Judge Treves (ITLOS 2004)

c. Summary of and extract from Corfu Channel Case (United Kingdom v. Albania) (ICJ 1949)

d. Artic Sunrise (Netherlands v Russia, ITLOS 2015) excerpts

D. Additional Issues

1. Innocent Passage for Warships:  The Black Sea Affairs

a. LOS Convention 1982, Arts 17–33

b. W.E. Butler, Innocent Passage and the 1982 Convention, 81 AJIL 331 (1987) (on the Black Sea affair 1986)

2. WMD, the Proliferation Security Initiative, and Anti-Piracy

a. Congressional Research Service Report on the Proliferation Security Initiative (2008)

b. US-Liberia Shipboarding Agreement pursuant to the PSI(2004; one of a number of such agreements now in place between the US and other states)

c. LOS Convention, Arts 27, 73, 110

d. Security Council Resolution 1851 (2008) (0n piracy off shore of Somalia); compare Security Council Resolution 2018(2011) (on piracy in Gulf of Guinea)

e. Killing of Indian fishermen wrongly suspected of being pirates (Associated Press, Feb. 2012)


II. Governance of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction:  From Custom to Cooperation 

The High Seas:Malcolm Evans, “The Law of the Sea” in Evans (ed.),International Law (3rd ed., 2010), pp. 665-71.

Ship Owners Find Panamanian Flag Useful, BBC News, Aug 4, 2014

A. The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf

1. Reference Materials: Malcolm Evans, “The Law of the Sea” in Evans (ed.), International Law (3rd ed., 2010), pp. 671-7.

2. LOS Convention 1982, Arts 76-77, Annex II

3. Opening Statement, Chairman of the Commission, Open Meeting of the Commission of the Limits of the Continental Shelf, May 2000 (pp. 2–5)

4. The Arctic

a. Drawing Lines in Melting Ice, The Economist, Aug. 19, 2007

b. Maritime Jurisdiction and Boundaries in the Arctic Region, Durham IBRU; Map of Arctic Claims and Boundaries, Durham IBRU, April 2013.

c. David Caron, Climate Change and Arctic Governance: Three Images of a Changing Arctic, in Vidas & Schei (eds.),The World Ocean in Globalisation (2011).

d. Mel Weber, Defining the Outer Limits of the Continental Shelf across the Arctic Basin: The Russian Submission, States’ Rights, Boundary Delimitation and Artic Regional Cooperation, 24 Int’l J. Marine and Coastal L. 653-691 (2009) [extracts].

*** Additional Materials *** [items 5-7]

5.  Anna Cavnar, Accountability and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf: Deciding Who Owns the Ocean Floor, 42 Cornell Int’l L. J. 387 (2009)

6. The Russian Submission:

a. Non-technical Description of Initial Submission (2002)

b. Secretary General’s 2002 Oceans and the Law of the Sea Report, including a description of the Commission’s decision on Russia’s submission ¶¶ 27–43

c. U.S. Reaction to Russian Continental Shelf Claim, 96 Am. J. Int’l L. 969 (2002)

d. Update on Revised Submission, Barents Observer, Dec. 2011

7. Developing Country Submissions

a. Submission Flowchart (note the demanding nature of the procedure)

b. Trust Fund:  Annex II, General Assembly Resolution 55/7 Oceans and the Law of the Sea (slightly amended by General Assembly Resolution 58/240 (2004)) (no country has yet successfully obtained funds from the CLCS Trust Fund)

B. Resources Beyond National Jurisdiction

1. Reference Materials: Malcolm Evans, “The Law of the Sea” in Evans (ed.), International Law (3rd ed., 2010), pp. 680-83.

2. Marine Biodiversity

a. Secretary General, Oceans and the Law of the Sea Report Addendum, A/60/63/Add. 1 ¶¶176–196 (2005)

b. Summary of Legal and Policy Framework on Marine Biological Diversity (2011), UN Office of Legal Affairs, Division for Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea

c. Recommendations adopted at the Fourth Meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group to Study Issues relating to the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (2011)

d. Earth Negotiations Bulletin summary of discussions at the Fourth Meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group(2011)

e. Bottom Trawling:

i.  General Assembly Resolution 61/105 (2006) paras 76-85; General Assembly Resolution 64/72 (2009) paras 107-133

ii. Executive Summary of Deep Sea Conservation Coalition Review of Implementation of General Assembly Resolutions 61/105 and 64/72

3. Genetic Resources

a. K. Russell LaMotte Access to Benefit-Sharing:  Risks and Opportunities in the Regulation of Bioprospecting for Genetic Resources, SL098 ALI-ABA 239, 248–51 (2006)

b. Legal Sources:

i. Convention on Biological Diversity, Arts 4, 5 (note also Nagoya Protocol, not yet in force): the CBD only applies to biodiversity within national jurisdiction; it explicitly leaves areas BNJ to UNCLOS.

ii. LOS Convention 1982, Arts 86, 116–20 (Regime of the High Seas), Arts 136–49 (the Area)

c. EU Working Paper, Reflections on the Management of Genetic Resources in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction, 7-10 (see also Earth Negotiations Bulletin summary of discussions at the Fourth Meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group (2011))

d. Statement on Behalf of the G77 and China to the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group (2011)

4. Insights for a Climate Change Regime?

a. Lavanya Rajamani, The Cancun Climate Agreements: Reading the Text, Subtext and Tea Leaves, 60 ICLQ 499 (2011), and recent updates pre-Durban and post-Durban

b. Lavanya Rajamani, The Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism as applied in India, extracts from: “The Indian Way: Exploring the Synergies between Development, Climate and Energy Goals,” in Zillman et al (eds), Beyond the Carbon Economy, ch 18 (OUP, 2008)