Bernaerts' Guide _UNCLOS 1982
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Book page 40-41

Section: Part VI, Articles 76-85

Continental Shelf - UNCLOS 1982The continental shelf concept emerged primarily in 1958, the concept of the exclusive economic zone at the 1973-1982 Conference. Provisions derived from both concepts expressly state that the coastal state has sovereign rights to the non-living resources of the sea-bed and its subsoil within the area of each of the zones[1]. But whereas the continental shelf concept is dependent on the rise of the continental shelf and can basically be applied only up to a certain depth of the sea-bed, the exclusive economic zone's outer limits are determined solely in terms of a distance from the coast (baseline), regardless of the depth of the water (and whether there is a continental shelf or not)[2]. A distinction between the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf zone is therefore necessary for two reasons:   

(a) a state party has to proclaim an exclusive economic zone, whereas the continental shelf rights exist for the coastal state independent of any proclamation or occupation, etc.[3] Consequently, a coastal state may exercise sovereign rights to resources of the sea-bed beyond the territorial sea, even where an exclusive economic zone has not been established or where it has not been established to the full extent permitted;

(b) if an exclusive economic zone has been established to the full extent permitted, a continental shelf subject to the coastal state's jurisdiction exists beyond the 200 nautical mile limit, if the topography of the sea-bed displays shelf character. The shelf may not exceed 350 nautical miles from the baseline from which the territorial sea is measured or 100 nautical miles from the 2,500 meter isobath, a line connecting the depth of 2,500 meters.[4]

[1] Art. 56(1)(a); 77(1) ,  
[2] Art. 57, 76,  
[3] Art. 77, Para . 3,
Art. 76, Para 5 , 
Art. 56, Para . 3, 
Art. 77, Para . 4; Art. 68, ,

[7] Art. 81(Art. 56, Para. 3),  
[8] Art. 85(Art. 56, Para. 3),  
[9] Art. 60, 80, 
[10] Art. 78, Para . 1, 
Art. 78, Para 2,  
[12] Part. VII,

[13] Art. 82, 
Annex II, 
[15] Art. 76, Para . 8-9, Art. 84,  
[16] Art. 84, Para . 2, 
Art. 298, Subpara. 1(a),
[18] Art. 76, Para . 10; Art. 83

 If an exclusive economic zone has been established - and this will be the general rule - two legal regimes exist with regard to the sea-bed subject to coastal state sovereign rights. Part of the shelf (sea-bed) is then subject to the regime of the exclusive economic zone and is governed generally by its provisions, which include reference to continental shelf provisions.[5] To avoid confusion, one should speak of the "sea-bed of the exclusive economic zone" or, synonymously, the "primary sea-bed," and call the sea-bed beyond the limits of the exclusive economic zone the "outer shelf." The "outer shelf" would be governed by an independent legal regime under the application of the provisions of Part VI for the "continental shelf" only.

The sovereign rights of the coastal state always include the exploitation of living organisms belonging to sedentary species,[6] drilling,[7] tunneling,[8] and the use of artificial islands, installations, and structures.[9] On the outer shelf beyond the 200 mile limits, the coastal state has no rights with regard to the superjacent waters to the sea-bed and the air space above those waters[10]. It must avoid interference with navigation and other rights and freedoms of other states[11] as laid down in the regime of the high seas.[12] The coastal state must make annual payments or contributions to the Sea-Bed Authority for resources exploited from the outer shelf, beginning five years after the start of production and increasing yearly to a maximum of seven percent of the value or volume of production at the site.[13] The delimitation of the outer shelf is to be undertaken by the coastal state on the recommendation of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf;[14] corresponding charts and relevant information are to be deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations[15] or the Secretary-General of the Authority (charts showing outer limts) and published[16]. The coastal state can exclude compulsory settlement of disputes[17] which might arise from delimitation of the outer shelf where other states have opposite or adjacent coasts[18].  

[1] Art. 56(1)(a); 77(1) ,  [2] Art. 57, 76,  [3] Art. 77, Para . 3, 4] Art. 76, Para 5 ,  [5] Art. 56, Para . 3,  [6] Art. 77, Para . 4; Art. 68, , [7] Art. 81(Art. 56, Para. 3),  [8] Art. 85(Art. 56, Para. 3),  [9] Art. 60, 80, [10] Art. 78, Para . 1,  [11] Art. 78, Para 2,  [12] Part. VII,  [13] Art. 82,  [14] Annex II,  [15] Art. 76, Para . 8-9, Art. 84,   [16] Art. 84, Para . 2,  [17] Art. 298, Subpara. 1(a), [18] Art. 76, Para . 10; Art. 83

Further Readings :  
- The Truman Proclamation of 1945. (Introduction)
- Developments in the late 1940s and 1950s. (Introduction)
- UN Conferences 1958 and 1960. (Introduction)
- The Continental Shelf.

Next page 42-43

Book published:
1988 Fairplay/UK,
2005 (reprint) by

Trafford Publishing,
1663 Liberty Drive Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403, Canada.

329 pages, ISBN 1-4120-7665-x;

Available via online-contributer 




Online – Edition

Bernaerts' Guide to the 
1982 United Nations
Convention on the Law of the Sea


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Bernaerts Guide -UNCLOS 1982

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Preface of the reprint in 2005

More than 15 years ago FAIRPLAY PUBLICATIONS Ltd, Coulsdon, Surrey, England, published the book "Bernaerts' Guide to the Law of the Sea - The 1982 United Nations Convention". The guiding potential of the book to find access to the Law of the Sea Convention is still given. Internet technology and publishing on demand invite to provide the interested reader and researcher with this tool again. Only the Status of the Convention (ratification etc) has been updated and instead of the Final Act, the book edition includes the "Agreement relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea" of 1994. The corresponding web site neither includes the text of the 1982 Convention, nor the Agreement of 1994. The thorough Index of the 1988 edition is reproduced without changes.
Arnd Bernaerts, October 2005,
Comments 1988-1990
___"an invaluable guide to the understanding and implementation of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea"
Satya N. Nandan, U.N. Undersecretay, in: Book Foreword, 1988
__"clearly presented" R.R. Churchill, in: Maritime Policy & Management 1989, p. 340
__"the (book's) concept, which is so wonderful simple, is exactly the factor which makes the book so useful for both the novice as well as the person with extensive experience"
M. Bonefeld, in: Verfassung und Recht, 1989, pp. 83-85
__"the work contains much useful background information…." R.W. Bentham, in: Journal of Energy & Natural Resource Law, 1989, p. 336
__"Bernaerts has saved us a struggle" JG, in: Fairplay Shipping Weekly Magazin, 13th October 1988, p. 33
__"this is probably the best edition on the Convention to put into the hands of students"
A.V. Lowe, in: Int'l and Comparative Law Quarterly 1990, p. 16
__"it will be an invaluable reference tool and should sit on the book shelves of policy makers and all others who are involved in maritime matters"
Vivian I. Forbes, in: The Indian Ocean Review, May 1990, p.10

Bernaerts’s Guide to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

FOREWORD of the 1988 edition
by Satya N. Nandan
Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for the Law of the Sea Office for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea

Revolutionary changes have taken place in the International Law of the Sea since 1945. The process of change was accelerated in the last two decades by the convening in 1973 of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea. The protracted negotiations, spanning over a decade, culminated in the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982. By 9 December 1984, the closing date for signature, 159 signatures were appended to the Convention, the largest number for any such multilateral instrument in the history of international relations.

The Convention, which was adopted as a comprehensive package, introduced a new equity in the relationship among states with respect to the uses of the ocean and the allocation of its resources. It deals, inter alia, with sovereignty and jurisdiction of states, navigation and marine transport, over flight of aircraft, marine pollution, marine scientific research, marine technology, conservation and exploitation of marine living resources, the development and-exploitation of marine non-living resources in national and international areas, and unique provisions dealing with the settlement of disputes concerning the interpretation and application of the new regime.

There is no doubt that as we approach the 21st century, more and more attention will be paid to the uses of the oceans and the development of their resources. It is important, therefore, that these developments should take place within a widely accepted legal framework so that there is certainty as to the rights and obligations of all states. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea provides that framework. It establishes a standard for the conduct of states in maritime matters. It is thus a major instrument for preventing conflicts among states.

The convention and its annexes contain over 400 articles. For many it may be a formidable undertaking to grasp the substance and structure of it without making a considerable investment in time and energy. Mr Bernaerts' guide, therefore, is a welcome addition to the growing body of literature on the convention. It provides a most useful reference tool which will benefit administrators and policy makers, as well as scholars. It makes the convention accessible to the uninitiated and refreshes, at a glance, the memories of the initiated. With meticulous references and graphic presentations of the provisions of the convention, Mr Bernaerts has given to the international community an invaluable guide to the understanding and implementation of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
April 1988

PREFACE (extract) of the 1988 edition

The reader will be aware that the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is the first constitution of the oceans, a ground-breaking document in many respects. He or she might also have made the discovery that the full text of the Convention is immediately accessible only to experts. If the Convention were only a treaty consisting of straightforward technical regulatory provisions, it could be left to them with a clear conscience. But the Convention is to a large extent a political document and, as such, is expected to influence significantly the development of relations among the states in the world community; for this reason, a wide-spread knowledge of the scope, goals, and regulatory framework of the Convention can only serve to further the aims of the document and would surely follow the intentions of the many men and women who made this Convention their life-work, such as Arvid Pardo (Malta), Hamilton Shirtey Amerasinghe (Sri Lanka), Tommy T. B. Koh (Singapore), and Satya N. Nandan (Fiji), to name only a few of the hundreds who worked on the preparation of this Convention.
As the reader uses the Guide (Part II), he will find that many provisions of the Convention are much easier to understand if one knows the basic framework within which a particular regulation is placed. The Guide aims to provide this framework, with reference to the text of the Convention and, in addition, t& the supporting Commentary of Part III, which describes the overall context of the major terms arid concepts. The Introduction of Part I sketches the historical background of the Convention and some of the general effects. A detailed index at the end of the book will be of assistance in finding specific subjects.


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