Lochner Law Firm, P.C.

Todd D. Lochner, Esq.
Greg Singer, Esq.

Lochner Law Firm, P.C.
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Marine Conventions

UN SeaAs we know, the world we live in has many nations. Each of those nations has goals and claims that adverse to other nations. For example, the ongoing debate over the South China Sea between China and the world. Those claims range from land to water, and even the air above. There are various reasons why nations make such claims, but mostly they are economic in nature. For example, the issue in the South China Sea actaully revolves around rights to fishing and natural resources. If China's claims are correct, they may have "exclusive" rights to certain parts of the water and may exclude other nations from them. Similarly the US Coast Guard protects the waters of the United States from illegal fishing, becuase the areas that are at issue belong exclusively to the United States. Japan, Russia, England, France, and even Cuba have certain rights to water that other nations must respect. The question is why nations respect each others claims and what happens when they do not.

Enter the world of Conventions. First, we are not talking about Star Treck conventions here, at least not until Earth colonizes Mars. The Conventions that govern general rules of how the world operates, are the Conventions of world nations. Examples include the Geneva Convention, the Hague Convention, the Hamburg Convention and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), just to name a few. These conventions include all nations that are impacted by a Convention. And as is true in politics, each Convention has many issues in a particular field that it tries to address. For example UNCLOS tries to reach an agreement between all the nations that have access or use the oceans and seas. The areas covered include fishing rights, natural resources, exclusive economic zones, trade, navigation, and even piracy. Each convention, in turn is amended, restated, and redrafted to cover as much of the consensus of nations as possible. Moreover, conventions provide a mechanism for dispute resolutions, like the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea, which handles international issues on the high seas.

There is a process of how conventions become laws of nations. First, a problem is identified. It maybe a small issue, like the navigation and trade in the Gulf of Mexico, or a global one like fishing. Second, a call is made to all nations to attend a convention where the identified issue will be discussed. At such a convention proposed drafts are created by the various nations. These drafts then is circulate amoung the nations and groups. This is where compromise and negotiations take place. With each nation pushing an agenda, many years can pass before a draft is presented to the Convention. Third, once a draft is approved and comment period ends, the final version of the convention is put before a vote of the convention. If it passes, a Convention is born. Fourth, once the Convention is final, it goes to the nations, who then decide what parts of the convention they will join. For example, Russia has ratified most of UNCLOS, except for the dispute resolution provisions. This means, that only the parts of the Convention that a nation signs applies to it. Before the convention can go into effect, it is required to gather certain amount of signatures, to any part of the convention. Finally, after a nation signs unto the Convention, the nation then must ratify the Convention through its government before it is bound by the rules set forth in the Convention. A signatory to the Convention, is not bound until ratifaction takes place. This means that a nation cannot be forced to abide by the Convention, but it also means that it cannot use the Convention. The greatest example of this was the Antartica dispute between the United States and Russia. Russia, ratified UNCLOS, while the United States is only a signatory. Therefore, when a dispute arose, the United States could not enforce any of its rights. This is the same issue with China and the South China Sea.

There are many Maritime Conventions, as well as others that affect the Maritime industry. Some of the major Conventions include MARPOL, Hamburg Rules, SOLAS, and PAL. For a quick list of others, click here ratified by the world. Remember, a ratified Convention does not mean that the contry accepted the entire Convention. For more details on a nation and the conventions it has ratified, please consult said Convention(s) or contact us. This chart is courtesy of Japan P&I Club.

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