The Law of the Sea Conference--Status of the Issues, 1978

ID-79-6: Published: Mar 9, 1979. Publicly Released: Mar 9, 1979.

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Both developed and developing nations attended the Law of the Sea Conference and, in general, subscribe to the principle that the oceans beyond national jurisdiction are the common heritage of mankind. However, the interpretation each group has of this principle differs. The objective of the United States delegation is to achieve a comprehensive treaty that protects essential United States' interests. The following principle issues were discussed at the 1977 and 1978 conference sessions. The assurance of access to mineral resources of the deep seabed for private contractors or states parties under reasonable terms is central to the success of the treaty. An International Seabed Authority should be established under the treaty to administer the common heritage concept in the best interest of mankind. The International Seabed Authority would have numerous sources of funds, such as various types of payments made by contractors or others exploring the seabed mineral resources, voluntary contributions, excess revenues generated by operations of the Enterprise and loans from commercial sources. The obligations of private and/or state contractors to the Authority can be characterized as monetary payments, technology transfers, and production restraint. The treaty text currently proposes four methods of dispute settlement: the International Court of Justice, the Law of the Sea Tribunal and its Seabed Disputes Chamber, arbitration procedures, and a special arbitral tribunal made up of experts. Opinions differ as to what the boundaries of the outer limit of the continental shelf beyond 200 miles should be. The marine scientific research text provides for coastal state consent for marine scientific research in the economic zone. The major marine environmental concern is accommodation of navigational and environmental interests.

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