- The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), also known as the Law of the Sea Treaty, is an international treaty which was adopted and signed in 1982. The Convention was formed to ensure freedom of shipping navigation at the sea.
- The Convention has created three new institutions on the international scene :
- the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea,
- the International Seabed Authority,
- the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
- India is a party to UNCLOS.
- UNCLOS classifies marine areas into five zones. They are:
- Territorial sea
- Contiguous zone
- Exclusive economic zone
- Continental shelf
- High Sea
- According to UNCLOS, the territorial sea can be defined as the area which extends up to 12 nautical miles from the baseline of a country’s coastal state. The territorial sea is under the jurisdiction of that particular country; however, foreign ships (both merchant and military) ships are allowed passage through it.
- This type of passage of territorial passage of foreign ships is known as an innocent passage. However, the right to the innocent passage can be suspended if there is a threat to the security of the coastal state.
- The contiguous zone can be defined as the belt which extends 12 nautical miles beyond the territorial sea limit.
- A coastal state’s control on this area is limited to prevention of actions which can infringe its customs, fiscal, and immigration laws. It can also act if any activity in the contiguous zone threatens regulations in the territorial sea.
Exclusive economic zone
- The exclusive economic zone can be defined as a belt of water which extends up to 200 nautical miles from the baseline of the coastal state. Thus it includes both territorial sea and contiguous zone.
- The exclusive economic zone provides the coastal state control over all economic resources such as fishing, mining, oil exploration, and marine research.
- The coastal state also has jurisdiction regarding protection and preservation of natural resources and marine environment.
- The continental shelf can be defined as the area whose outer limit shall not exceed 350 nautical miles from the baseline or shall not exceed 100 nautical miles from the 2500 meters isobath.
- Isobath is a line connecting points of equal underwater depth.
- The coastal state has exclusive rights for exploring and exploiting its natural resources in this area. The state also has the exclusive rights to authorize and regulate drilling on the shelf for all purposes.
- High seas can be defined as the part of the sea that is not included in the exclusive economic zone, in the territorial sea, or in the internal waters of a coastal state or archipelagic waters of an archipelagic state.
- High seas are open to all states for freedom of navigation, freedom of overflight, freedom to construct artificial islands installation, freedom of fishing, and freedom of scientific research.
Why in News?
- A delegation from India and other member countries of the United Nations are in New York to deliberate on a one-of-its-kind agreement to conserve marine biodiversity in the high seas, namely the oceans that extend beyond countries’ territorial waters.
- The agreement follows a resolution by the UN General Assembly in May and is expected to be the final in a series set in motion since 2018 to draft an international legally binding instrument under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
- The high seas comprise nearly 45% of the Earth’s surface.
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