Thursday, August 1, 2013

Jurisdiction (Laws) of the Sea, UNCLOS, Private Sector Capital, and Oil

According to the Central Intelligence Agency website, the definitions concerning maritime claims are as follows:

“territorial sea - the sovereignty of a coastal state extends beyond its land territory and internal waters to an adjacent belt of sea, described as the territorial sea in the UNCLOS (Part II); this sovereignty extends to the air space over the territorial sea as well as its underlying seabed and subsoil; every state has the right to establish the breadth of its territorial sea up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles” [1]

“contiguous zone - according to the UNCLOS (Article 33), this is a zone contiguous to a coastal state's territorial sea, over which it may exercise the control necessary to: prevent infringement of its customs, fiscal, immigration, or sanitary laws and regulations within its territory or territorial sea; punish infringement of the above laws and regulations committed within its territory or territorial sea; the contiguous zone may not extend beyond 24 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured (e.g., the US has claimed a 12-nautical mile contiguous zone in addition to its 12-nautical mile territorial sea” [2]

“exclusive economic zone (EEZ) - the UNCLOS (Part V) defines the EEZ as a zone beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea in which a coastal state has: sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, of the waters superjacent to the seabed and of the seabed and its subsoil, and with regard to other activities for the economic exploitation and exploration of the zone, such as the production of energy from the water, currents, and winds” [3]

When it comes to the validity of the United States and the various international claims, it is hard to justify or deny either side of an international law argument because international law, even if it does exist on paper, is completely controlled and distorted by private capital and the UN Security Council.  When it boils down to territorial claims, “Oil and fish are at the root of any number of disputes that involve the continental shelf and the exclusive economic zone” [4].  I would assume (with great confidence) that 99.9% of all disputes are economic in nature.   Remember, these international waters once were waterways for the transatlantic slave trade.

The original United Nations Convention on Laws of the Sea occurred in 1956, and created four treaties: Convention on the Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone, Convention on the Continental Shelf, Convention on the High Seas, Convention on Fishing and Conservation of Living Resources of the High Seas.

We know that the U.S. “proclaimed a 200-nautical-mile EEZ in 1983”, but this included “Hawaii and Puerto Rico as well as the continental United States” [5].  The U.S. was already under the Geneva Convention on the Law of the Sea from 1958, and due to opposition in the U.S. Senate against ratifying the treaty; the U.S. simply recognized the convention as customary law.  It is also noteworthy to point out that Israel has also not signed the treaty.

I pulled up the UN page with the full text of the original United Nations Convention on the Law and Sea, and the articles of the convention that I browsed over were exactly what I would expect from the United Nations.  Interesting enough, the third UNCLOS was conducted “shortly after the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war. The subsequent oil embargo and skyrocketing of prices only helped to heighten concern over control of offshore oil reserves. Already, significant amounts of oil were coming from offshore facilities: 376 million of the 483 million tons produced in the Middle East in 1973; 431 million barrels a day in Nigeria, 141 million barrels in Malaysia, 246 million barrels in Indonesia. And all of this with barely 2 per cent of the continental shelf explored” [6].

I think that it is evident what these so-called laws of the sea and UNCLOS are all about, especially the 1982 adoption of Part 5, Article 55 which expanded the exclusive economic zone during the oil boom of the 1980s.  It was, and still is, about oil and economics.  I still do not see an international law system; I see an international hegemon controlled by private sector capital (aka globalization).

In closing, I found a full text from a Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs 2012 hearing discussing UNCLOS.  If any of you have some free time, I would suggest browsing over it or watching the video I am going to post the link for.  During this hearing, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld even mentions the potential for future outer space resources possibly being considered under UNCLOS (approximately the 38 minute mark of the video).  After all, if you read the definitions contained in the UNCLOS treaty…it does mention ‘air space’.  And we know how those legal loop holes are in international law, don’t we?  

 Here are two interesting quotes I found form the 2012 Senate hearing that clearly show the truth of the matter from a U.S. perspective:

“These businesses have made the business decision to buy multimillion dollar leases from the U.S. Government to go out on an Extended Continental Shelf, regardless that we are not a party to this treaty and whatever international  certainty that comes along with it” – Mr. Steven Groves (Heritage Foundation)

“Joining UNCLOS would affect our sovereignty and national interests in several ways.  It would expose the United States to adverse judgments from international tribunals from which there are no appeals.  It would obligate the United States to make an open-ended commitment to transfer an incalculable amount of royalty revenue to an international organization for redistribution to the developing world.  And it would require the United States to seek permission to mine the deep seabed from a council of foreign countries that includes Sudan” – Mr. Steven Groves

Below are the links to the full text of the Senate hearings and a video link I also found:

Full text link:

Link with video of hearings (Guess what I will be watching going to bed tonight):


[1]  Maritime Claims.  Central Intelligence Agency (August 1, 2013 16:23),

[2] Maritime Claims.  Central Intelligence Agency (August 1, 2013 16:23),

[3] Maritime Claims.  Central Intelligence Agency (August 1, 2013 16:23),

[4] Gerhard von Glahn & James Larry Taubee, Law Among Nations: An Introduction to Public International Law p. 319 (9th ed. 2010)

[5] Gerhard von Glahn & James Larry Taubee, Law Among Nations: An Introduction to Public International Law p. 319 (9th ed. 2010)

[6] United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea: A Historical Perspective.  United Nations: Dividion for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea.  (August 1, 2013 17:56),

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