International Law Studies


The fortieth anniversary of the opening for signature of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea provides an opportunity to offer some reflections on the “new law of the sea”; that is, the comprehensive set of rules that was the result of an unprecedented multilateral negotiation process: the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (1973–1982). The focus of this article is on the adjudication of sea-related disputes in the “new law of the sea.” In an international legal order where access to a judge or an arbitrator requires the consent of both parties to the dispute, the importance of such a mechanism—which is absent in most multilateral environmental treaties—should be underlined. Indeed, under Section 2 of Part XV (“Compulsory procedures entailing binding decisions”), a State party to the Convention which alleges that another State party has breached a provision is entitled to bring such a dispute to a third-party mechanism. This could be the International Court of Justice, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, or arbitration. This article addresses four topics: the increase of maritime disputes brought before international courts and tribunals over the last forty years; the relative harmony in the jurisprudence produced by those international courts and tribunals; the importance of jurisdictional basis in law of the sea disputes; and future disputes in the law of the sea.