Law of the Sea

Introduction

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Montego Bay, 10 December 1982), UNCLOS, is intended to govern the use of oceans for fishing, shipping, exploration, navigating and mining. The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is the most comprehensive treaty in public international law and covers a range of Law of the Sea topics, such as delimitation of maritime boundaries, maritime zones, marine environment protection, marine scientific research, piracy and many more.

Part XI UNCLOS on the legal regime on deep seabed mining used to be a main obstacle for ratification by Western states and blocked the entry into force of the UNCLOS as a whole. After more specific regulations in the 1994 Agreement relating to the implementation of Part XI of UNCLOS about the commercial exploitation of the deep seabed, more countries were willing to ratify and UNCLOS entered into force in 1994. Although the United States now recognizes the UNCLOS as a codification of customary international law, the US has not yet ratified it.

This Research Guide is intended as a starting point for research on the Law of the Sea. It provides the basic legal materials available in the Peace Palace Library, both in print and electronic format. Handbooks, leading articles, bibliographies, periodicals, serial publications and documents of interest are presented in the Selective Bibliography section. Links to the PPL Catalogue are inserted. The Library's systematic classification → Sea in general and subject headings (keywords) Law of the Sea and UN Convention on the Law of the Sea UNCLOS are instrumental for searching through the Catalogue. Special attention is given to our subscriptions on databases, e-journals, e-books and other electronic resources. Finally, this Research Guide features links to relevant websites and other online resources of particular interest.

For an overview and excellent presentation of the most relevant law of the sea cases please take a look at:
(Head, Ocean Law and Policy Programme, Centre for International Law, National University of Singapore)

Bibliography

Reference works

Relevant books

 

Journal articles and book-items

Documents

Periodicals, serial publications

Bibliographies

Systematic classification → Sea

New titles

As we are right in the middle of moving to a new library system, it is not yet possible to automatically collect new titles for this Research Guide.

Librarian's choice

  • Kraska, J. and Pedrozo, R., The Free Sea: the American Fight for Freedom of Navigation, Annapolis, Maryland, Naval Institute Press, 2018.

    Kraska, J. and Pedrozo, R., The Free Sea: the American Fight for Freedom of Navigation, Annapolis, Maryland, Naval Institute Press, 2018.

    Freedom of the seas is the foundation of all sea power and a bedrock principle of international law and global order. Separated from the centers of power in Europe and Asia by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the United States has relied on the principles of freedom of navigation for economic prosperity and military security. James Kraska and Raul Pedrozo focus on the struggle to safeguard that freedom. Challenges to U.S. warships and maritime commerce have pushed, and continue to challenge, the United States to vindicate its rights through diplomatic, legal, and military means, underscoring the need for the strategic resolve to ensure freedom in the global maritime commons.

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  • Buderi, C.L.O. and Ricart, L.T., The Iran-UAE Gulf islands dispute: a journey through international law, history and politics, Leiden, Boston, Brill Nijhoff, 2018.

    Buderi, C.L.O. and Ricart, L.T., The Iran-UAE Gulf islands dispute: a journey through international law, history and politics, Leiden, Boston, Brill Nijhoff, 2018.

    In The Iran-UAE Gulf Islands Dispute, Charles Buderi and Luciana Ricart take the reader on a journey through centuries of Gulf history and evolving principles of international law on territorial disputes to reach conclusions over the rightful sovereign of three Gulf islands - Abu Musa and the Tunbs - claimed by both Iran and the United Arab Emirates. Drawing on a wide range of scholarly works and archival documents from sources as diverse as the Dutch East India Company, the Ottoman Empire and the British Government, Buderi and Ricart analyze historical events from antiquity up to modern times. Ultimately, the authors reach conclusions on the ownership of the islands under international law which challenge the positions of both parties.

    [Also available as e-book in Brill database]

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  • Minas, S. and Diamond, H.J. (eds.), Stress Testing the Law of the Sea: Dispute Resolution, Disasters and Emerging Challenges, Leiden, Boston, Brill Nijhoff, 2018.

    Minas, S. and Diamond, H.J. (eds.), Stress Testing the Law of the Sea: Dispute Resolution, Disasters and Emerging Challenges, Leiden, Boston, Brill Nijhoff, 2018.

    Foreword : reflections on forty years of the law of the sea / Gudmundur Eiriksson -- In memoriam : David D. Caron -- Introduction : the law of the sea and the challenges of transnational governance / Stephen Minas, Jordan Diamond and Holly Doremus -- The role of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in global ocean governance / Vladimir Golitsyn -- Contested sovereignty over land territory and maritime zones / Pierre-Emmanuel Dupont -- Arbitrating maritime disputes: evolving approaches to maritime features and third party interests in UNCLOS arbitration / Robert G. Volterra -- Navigating uncharted procedural waters in a rising sea of cases at the Permanent Court of Arbitration / Judith Levine and Garth L. Schofield -- ITLOS at 20 : provisional measures and the precautionary approach / Mubarak A. Waseem -- Certain controversial issues in the development of the international law of the sea / Keyuan Zou -- The South China Sea arbitration and the China-Philippines relations beyond the award / Vasco Becker-Weinberg -- Interpreting the dispute settlement limitation on fisheries after the Chagos Marine Protected Area arbitration / Alexandros X.M. Ntovas -- Protection standards for the marine environment updating part of the law of the sea convention? / Maria Gavouneli -- Weathering the 21st century : how UNCLOS contributes to responses to climate-related disaster events / Anastasia Telesetsky -- The Sendai opportunity : maritime access and cooperation for disaster relief / Stephen Minas -- Rights and obligations of states in undelimited maritime areas : the case of the eastern Mediterranean sea / Nicholas A. Ioannides

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  • Temsamani, R.M., El Estrecho de Gibraltar: la protección internacional y nacional de su medio ambiente marino, Madrid, Dykinson S.L., 2018.

    Temsamani, R.M., El Estrecho de Gibraltar: la protección internacional y nacional de su medio ambiente marino, Madrid, Dykinson S.L., 2018.

    Por su naturaleza, el Estrecho de Gibraltar se enfrenta a una, cada vez mayor, degradación de su medio ambiente marino, consecuencia, entre otras, de la ausencia de un marco jurídico adaptado a su particularidad. Y es que, al día de hoy los estrechos utilizados para la navegación internacional, carecen de una normativa específica que responda a esta situación. De hecho, podría afirmarse que la CNUDM es el único tratado internacional que, de forma expresa, hace referencia en su articulado a la protección del medio marino de los estrechos de navegación internacional. Por lo que se refiere al Estrecho de Gibraltar, cabe señalar que la dificultad de proteger su medio ambiente aumenta debido a su ubicación geoestratégica y a la existencia de una latente controversia de soberanía sobre sus aguas. Circunstancias todas ellas que dificultan la consecución de cualquier acuerdo internacional entre los Estados ribereños, que pueda servir de base para la fijación de un marco jurídico eficaz de protección.

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  • Forteau, M. et Thouvenin, J.-M. (eds.), Traité de droit international de la mer, Paris, Pedone, 2017.

    Le présent Traité vise à mettre à la disposition des étudiants, des praticiens et des chercheurs une présentation actualisée et aussi détaillée que possible du droit international de la mer, c'est-à-dire des principes et règles de droit international public (à commencer par ceux qui résultent de la convention des Nations Unies sur le droit de la mer de 1982) qui régissent les titres de souveraineté, droits de juridiction et compétences des Etats sur les espaces maritimes et ceux qui encadrent les activités en mer, ainsi que le règlement des différends portant sur leur interprétation ou application. Les enjeux juridiques liés aux mers et aux océans sont d'une importance capitale dans le monde contemporain. Les espaces maritimes sont source de convoitise et le lieu d'activités diverses, qui appellent un encadrement juridique approprié. Ces activités sont largement pratiquées et participent légitimement, et à grande échelle, au développement économique des sociétés modernes (navigation, commerce, transport, exploitation des ressources halieutiques et du sous-sol marin).

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  • The Contribution of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to the Rule of Law: 1996-2016, Leiden, Boston, Brill Nijhoff, 2018.

    The Contribution of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to the Rule of Law: 1996-2016, Leiden, Boston, Brill Nijhoff, 2018.

    The Contribution of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to the Rule of Law: 1996-2016 contains contributions from judges and former judges of the Tribunal, legal advisors, counsel, practitioners and scholars on the contribution made by the Tribunal to the rule of law and the progressive development of international law. Highlighting the role played by the Tribunal over the last 20 years in the system for the peaceful settlement of law of the sea related disputes, this volume will be a useful resource for all those interested in the law of the sea and dispute resolution.

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  • Oude Elferink, A.G., Henriksen, T. and Busch, S.V. (eds.), Maritime boundary delimitation: the case law: is it consistent and predictable? Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2018.

    Oude Elferink, A.G., Henriksen, T. and Busch, S.V. (eds.), Maritime boundary delimitation: the case law: is it consistent and predictable? Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2018.

    The law of maritime delimitation has been mostly developed through the case law of the International Court of Justice and other tribunals. In the past decade there have been a number of cases that raise questions about the consistency and predictability of the jurisprudence concerning this sub-field of international law. This book investigates these questions through a systematical review of the case law on the delimitation of the continental shelf and the exclusive economic zone. Comprehensive coverage allows for conclusions to be drawn about the case law's approach to the applicable law and its application to the individual case. Maritime Boundary Delimitation: The Case Law will appeal to scholars of international dispute settlement as well as practitioners and academics interested in the law concerning the delimitation of maritime boundaries.

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  • Harrison, J., Making the Law of the Sea: a Study in the Development of International Law, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2014.

    Harrison, J., Making the Law of the Sea: a Study in the Development of International Law, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2011.

    Making the Law of the Sea examines how various international organisations have contributed to the development of this law and what kinds of instruments and law-making techniques have been used. Each chapter considers a different international institution – including the International Maritime Organization and the United Nations – and analyses its functions and powers. Important questions are posed about the law-making process, including what actors are involved and what procedures are followed. Potential problems for the development of the law of the sea are considered and solutions are proposed. In particular, James Harrison explores and evaluates the current methods employed by international institutions to coordinate their law-making activities in order to overcome fragmentation of the law-making process.

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  • Yamamoto, L. and Esteban, M., Atoll Island States and International Law: Climate Change Displacement and Sovereignty, Berlin, Springer, 2014.

    Yamamoto, L. and Esteban, M., Atoll Island States and International Law: Climate Change Displacement and Sovereignty, Berlin, Springer, 2014.

    Atoll Island States exist on top of what is perceived to be one of the planet's most vulnerable ecosystems: atolls. It has been predicted that an increase in the pace of sea level rise brought about by increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere will cause them to disappear, forcing their inhabitants to migrate. The present book represents a multidisciplinary legal and engineering perspective on this problem, challenging some common misconceptions regarding atolls and their vulnerability to sea-level rise. Coral islands have survived past changes in sea levels, and it is the survival of coral reefs what will be crucial for their continued existence. These islands are important for their inhabitants as they represent not only their ancestral agricultural lands and heritage, but also a source of revenue through the exploitation of the maritime areas associated with them.

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Database

Blogs

  • Fifty Years Legal Argument over the Chagos Archipelago

    Since the creation of the British Indian Ocean Territory, a remnant of the British Empire has been subject of international legal dispute. The two most prominent are the request for an advisory opinion – currently under deliberation of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) – and secondly the arbitral proceedings under the Law of the Sea Convention. These issues and certain domestic proceedings in the United Kingdom relating to the legal status of the Chagossian people, have been the subject of legal academic research and subsequent publications. A recent addition is titled: “Fifty years of the British Indian Ocean territory: legal perspectives.” This book, produced in response to the 50th anniversary of the British Indian Ocean Territory’s founding, also assesses the impact of the decisions taken in respect of the Territory against a wider background of decolonization while addressing important questions about the lawfulness of maintaining Overseas Territories in the post-colonial era.

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  • The Capture of the Santa Catarina (1603)

    By 1602, the newly formed Dutch East India Company (VOC) was threatening Portugal’s monopoly over the Asian spice trade. In response, the Portuguese government designed an extensive campaign to drive out the Dutch from the East Indies. Outraged by the atrocities the Portuguese inflicted on the Dutch and their allies, Admiral Van Heemskerck – sailing in the Strait of Singapore – prepared to retaliate against the Portuguese. After spending months of looking for a Portuguese ship to capture, they at last found one on that morning of February 25, 1603. And not just any ship, but the treasure ship Santa Catarina. The ship and its cargo ended up as booty of war and were taken back to Europe. The incident of the Santa Catarina was most certainly not uncontroversial from a legal point of view …

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  • The South China Sea Arbitration (12 July 2016) PCA Case No. 2013-19

    In the South China Sea Arbitration Award (12 July 2016), an arbitral tribunal at The Hague found that China’s claim to historic rights to resources was incompatible with the detailed allocation of rights and maritime zones in the Convention. The Tribunal considered that prior to the Convention, the waters of the South China Sea beyond the territorial sea were legally part of the high seas, in which vessels from any State could freely navigate and fish. Accordingly, the Tribunal concluded that, as between the Philippines and China, there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources, in excess of the rights provided for by the Convention, within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’.

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  • Vessel-Source Air Pollution Remains Global 'Blindspot'

    Shipping is considered to be a significant source of global air pollution, both for conventional pollutants and greenhouse gases. Sulphur and black carbon, also called soot, are released in the air in large quantities because large (container and cruise) ships use heavy bunker oil. This is oil from the waste well of the oil industry, the cheapest and dirtiest thing you can get. Seventeen containerships emit as much sulfur as all the cars on the planet in one year. And one cruise ship emits a day as much soot as one million cars.

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  • Coral Reefs under Threat?

    Are coral reefs condemned to disappear? During the first decade of the 21st century, the intensification of cyclones, the phenomenon of coral bleaching due to ocean warming, outbreaks of a coral-eating starfish and coral diseases left us with this fear. In terms of addressing knowledge gaps, coral reefs are a priority because of their extraordinarily high biological richness and the multitude of products and ecosystem services they provide to human beings. What is the status and legal regime of coral reefs nowadays?

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  • US Policy China Sea and UNCLOS

    The Law of the Sea Treaty, formally known as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, was adopted in 1982. One hundred and sixty-two countries, including China and Russia and the European Union, are signatories to the treaty that governs the world’s oceans. The United States is not. The Convention has been approved by nearly every maritime power and all the permanent members of the UN Security Council, except the United States. Despite being a leading maritime power possessing the largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and one of the longest continental shelves, the United States has not ratified UNCLOS.

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  • Arctic Sovereignty: Icy Roads to the North Pole

    Canada, the US, Norway, Russia, and Denmark have been gathering scientific evidence for more than a decade in an effort to increase their continental shelf claims in the Arctic Ocean Region.The potential delimitation dispute between Canada, Russia and Denmark seems to focus on the Lomonosov Ridge. The North Pole is located about 400 nautical miles from the northernmost island of Canada, Denmark, Norway and the Russian Federation. Under international law coastal state rights over the water columns are limited to the 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone, using the state’s territorial sea baselines as starting point.

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  • Tuvalu, Quo Vadis?

    Climate change damage in the South Pacific is a problem for all small island developing states, including Tuvalu. These island states may become uninhabitable within the foreseeable future. What about the maritime boundaries and maritime claims of the former (Tuvalu) sea territory, which options do Tuvaluans have here? Does a disappearing Tuvalu have international repercussions? Tuvalu (formerly the Ellice Islands) comprises a cluster of nine islands, plus islets, located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean just south of the Equator. These remote atolls are situated about 1,050 km (650 mi) n of Suva, Fiji, and 4,000 km (2,500 mi) of Sydney, Australia. Tuvalu has a coastline of 24 km (15 mi). As a rather small archipel Tuvale possesses considerable maritime claims on fishing grounds and natural resources in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and continental shelf.

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  • Unresolved Territorial Disputes: The Tunbs and Abu Musa in the Gulf

    Last week, the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, renewed his country’s demand for the restoration of sovereignty over three islands in the Persian Gulf region. Responding to the statement by the UAE, Iran’s representative reiterated his country’s full sovereignty over the islands and categorically rejected any claims to the contrary. The legal dispute about ownership and sovereignty of the three islands is based on rival historical claims by both sides.

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  • Senkaku or Diaoyu(tai) Islands?

    The Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute has been close to the boil for months. The Japanese prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, took the decision to buy the islands to head off a more destabilising but popular proposal not only to acquire them but also to begin their active development.

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  • Criminal Acts at Sea: research topic of the 2012 Programme of the Centre for Studies and Research in International Law and International Relations

    On Monday 20 August 2012 the Centre for Studies and Research in International Law and International Relations of the The Hague Academy of International Law will start. The Research Programme of this year is concerned with criminal acts at sea. Together with the two Directors of Studies of the research programme for 2012, Dr. Kimberley N. TRAPP (Lecturer at Newnham College, University of Cambridge) for the French-speaking section and Dr. Efthymios PAPASTAVRIDIS (Lecturer at University of Thrace and Research Fellow at Academy of Athens) for the English-speaking section, the participants will concern themselves with the various aspects of law which are related to criminal acts at sea.

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  • Hans Island : Crisis in the Arctic?

    Compared with other regions on the planet, the Arctic is warming faster. More of the Arctic is free of ice for longer periods. The possibilities for exploitation of natural resources and for control over Northern shipping lanes have prompted countries’ renewed interest in their competing claims to the region. Recently, Denmark (for Greenland) and Canada have clashed over their claims to a small, barren rock known as Hans Island.

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  • Pirates, Buccaneers and Privateers : Concepts of International Law

    Establishing an authoritative definition of “piracy” in international law has always been rather problematic. The definition is relevant, because any confusion in terminology invariably leads to debates between State sovereignty and universal jurisdiction over crimes at sea. The various international law meanings of piracy are derived from, among others, international treaties, and various municipal law meanings are defined by statutes and State practice.

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  • Plastic Soup – What Legal Response to Marine Debris Pollution ?

    Solving the problem of marine debris and plastic pollution in the World’s oceans is a very complex and challenging enterprise. In particular, its legal framework. Various international and regional instruments, domestic and local laws and regulations apply directly or indirectly to marine debris pollution. The conspicuously global nature of this problem indicates that a potential role of significance is reserved for international environmental law. However, not all international and regional instruments are legally binding, and not all have a strong focus on marine debris and plastic pollution.

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  • Grotius in Slovenia

    Grotius’ theory on the Freedom of the Sea might help Slovenia in the dispute with Croatia over a small bay in the Adriatic. Since their independence from Yuogoslavia in 1991 they quarrel over the territorial sea delimitation in the Bay of Piran. Croatia claims that the border should be drawn in the middle of the bay, which would deny Slovenian ships direct access to the high sea…

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  • Norway and Russian Federation Sign Maritime Delimitation Agreement

    In Murmansk on Wednesday 15th September 2010 Norway and the Russian Federation signed a treaty concerning the maritime delimitation and cooperation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean. The disputed territory covered 175,000 square km (67,600 sq miles), an area mainly in the Barents Sea between proven petroleum reserves on the Russian and Norwegian sides.

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  • Announcement lecture 'The law of the sea'

    On monday, June 21 2010, prof. mr. A.H.A. Soons (Utrecht university) will give a lecture on the ‘Law of the Sea’. The topics will be international maritime law in general and specific issues like piracy, overfishing and Japanese whaling. Professor Soons will also speak on disputes that states had to claim marine areas. The lecture […]

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  • The Falkland Islands Conflict

    Tensions between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the Falkland Islands came to a boiling point when the UK announced plans to begin offshore oil drilling near the remote islands in February 2010. This blog will briefly discuss this complicated dispute as well as the actions taken by both parties in the United Nations General Assembly.

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  • Mare Liberum 1609-2009

    Celebration of the 400th anniversary of Grotius’ famous book “Mare Liberum”.
    Highlight was the presentation of the first copy of a new English translation of Mare Liberum “ Hugo Grotius Mare liberum 1609-2009. Original Latin and English Translation”. Edited and annotated by Robert Feenstra, General Introduction by Jeroen Vervliet. Leiden : Brill 2009. ISBN 9789004177017.

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  • Innocent passage in the territorial sea

    The concept of passage is defined in article 18 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Montego Bay, 1982) as ‘continious and expeditious’ navigation through the territorial sea from and to any other sea zone. The passage, to be characterised as innocent, must not be prejudicial to the peace, good order and security of the coastal state (article 19 UNCLOS III).

    Article 30 UNCLOS III states that ‘If any warship does not comply with the laws and regulations of the coastal State concerning passage through the territorial sea and disregards any request for compliance therewith which is made to it, the coastal State may require it to leave the territorial sea immediately.’

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  • Hugo Grotius’ Mare Liberum 1609-2009

    The Hague celebrates the 400th anniversary of the publication of Hugo Grotius’ Mare Liberum (Leiden, Publishing House of Elsevier) with an extensive program of activities. It commemmorates the fact that Grotius wrote his book in The Hague with exhibitions, theater/musical plays, films, publications and lectures in museums and libraries.

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  • Maritime Cultural Property and Treasure Hunting

    Archaeological sites in international waters are numerous and still largely untouched. With the development of sophisticated technology for the search and recovery of shipwrecks on the ocean floor, however, issues of ownership, preservation, and cultural property rights have achieved increasing prominance. In particular, after the discovery of RMS Titanic in 1985 the debate among marine archaeologists, cultural rights proponents and commercial salvage companies about treasure hunting in international waters has intensified.

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  • 32nd Telders International Law Moot Court Competition (16-18 April 2009)

    The Mare Liberum Case Case concerning sovereignty over Abundantia Ridge and other matters. Rosmarus v Urusus.  From 16 – 18 April 2009 the 32nd Telders International Law Moot Court Competition will be held at the Peace Palace in The Hague. The Telders Moot Court Competition could be considered the most prestigious and important international moot […]

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  • Maritime Delimitation in the Black Sea (Romania v. Ukraine)

    On Tuesday 3 February 2009 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) rendered its Judgment in the case concerning Maritime Delimitation in the Black Sea (Romania v. Ukraine). A public sitting took place at 10 a.m. at the Peace Palace in The Hague, during which the President of the Court, Judge Rosalyn Higgins, read the Court’s Judgment.

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