Bernaerts' Guide _UNCLOS 1982
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Book page 22-23

Section: Preamble; Part I, Art.1  


Preamble _UNCLOS 1982The significance of the Convention's opening statement, in addition to heightening the solemn character of the following document, can be found in its expression of the Conference's purposes, aims, desires, and beliefs which motivated the participating nations to conclude the agreement. The Preamble does not impose direct obligations on the states parties; but by showing the political, historical, and ideological context of the treaty, it imposes a certain obligation to interpret the treaty in good faith, in accordance with the ordinary meaning of the terms, and in the light of the object and purpose of the Convention.

The Conference itself was aware of the historic significance of and the need for a new and generally accepted Convention which would settle all issues of the law of the sea and hoped that the present effort would be a contribution to the maintenance of peace, justice, and progress for all peoples of the world. The Conference refers to the resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations of December 17, 1970 [1] that

 "the area of the sea-bed and ocean floor and the subsoil thereof, beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, as well as its resources, are the common heritage of mankind, the exploration and exploitation of which shall be carried out for the benefit of mankind as a whole, irrespective of the geographical location of States."

 Furthermore, the Conference recognized the desirability of establishing through the Convention a legal order for the seas and oceans which would facilitate international communication and promote the peaceful uses of the seas and oceans, aiding the equitable and efficient utilization as well as protection of living resources and the protection and preservation of the marine environment. If these goals could be achieved, the realization of a just and equitable international economic order would be a step closer to reality, and the Convention would contribute to the strengthening of peace, security, co-operation, and friendly relations among all nations and promote the economic and social advancement of all peoples of the world in accordance with the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations as set forth in the Charter.

The final paragraph of the Preamble states that matters not regulated by the Convention continue to be governed by rules and principles of general international law.    

See Preamble                                     
2 Art.1                                  
3 Art. 134, 56,76
4 Art. 156-186  

5 Art. 133                                   
6 Reference: Part XII        
7 Reference: Art. 210, 216
8 Art. 305, Para . 1; Annex IX  

Section: Preamble; Part I, Art.

The Introduction[2] defines several important, recurring terms. For the purposes of the Convention, the following definitions apply for the length of the document:

"Area" - Article 1, Subparagraph 1(1)

"Area" means the sea-bed and ocean floor and subsoil thereof, beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.[3] The regime of the Area is subject to Part XI.

"Authority" - Article 1, Subparagraph 1(2)

"Authority" means the International Sea-Bed Authority, whose structure, rights, and duties are regulated at length in Part XI.[4]

"Activities in the Area" - Article 1, Subparagraph 1(3)

"Activities in the Area" means all activities of exploration for, and exploitation of, resources in the Area. Resources are all solid, liquid, or gaseous mineral resources in situ in the Area at or beneath the sea-bed, including polymetallic nodules[5]

"Pollution and Dumping" - Article 1, Subparagraphs 1(4) and 1(5)

These two terms are defined in considerably more detail, even at this early point. In short, pollution is the introduction of substances or energy by man into the marine environment and which may be a danger for the environment[6]. In summary, dumping means the deliberate disposal of waste, unless it is incidental to or derived from the normal operation of man-made devices or is placed for purposes other than mere disposal, provided this is not contrary to the aims of the Convention[7].

"States Parties" - Article 1, Paragraph 2

When the Convention refers to States Parties, it means all States and certain other entities   (e.g., territories, international organizations)[8] for whom the Convention is internationally binding and in force.

[1] See Preamble    [2] Art.1,    [3] Art. 134, 56,76 , [4] Art. 156-186,   [5] Art. 133    [6] Reference: Part XII    [7] Reference: Art. 210, 216,   [8] Art. 305, Para . 1; Annex IX

Further readings: 
- Reference to Peaceful Uses of the Sea (Layout). (Guide Part XVI
- The Unification of the Law of  Sea. (Commentary)
- Equality – Equal Rights for All? (Introduction)

UNCLOS Preamble Content

Next page 24-25

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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