Bernaerts' Guide _UNCLOS 1982
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Section: Part XV, Articles 279-299

SYSTEM FOR SETTLEMENT OF DISPUTES - UNCLOS 1982Part XV of the Convention itself includes only provisions for the conduct of the states parties, procedures, and jurisdiction, while the whole structure of the dispute settlement system includes four of the Annexes to the Convention: Conciliation (Annex V), Statue of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (Annex VI), Arbitration (Annex VII), and Special Arbitration (Annex VIII). States Parties must exhaust all local remedies before resort is made to the procedures provided in this section of the Convention[1].

The basic tenent underlying the settlement of disputes is that the parties are bound to use only peaceful means[2] exchange their views without delay[3] behave in accordance with the requirements of the United Nations Charter[4] and seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, concili­ation, arbitration, and judicial settlement[5] in good faith[6]. The final effort prior to official proceedings is a non-binding conciliation procedure[7]. But it is necessary that the parties agree to conciliation proceedings and to the procedure to be applied[8] except in cases where conciliation is compulsory[9] such as when a coastal state is required to submit certain marine scientific research disputes[10] and fisheries disputes[11] to non-binding conciliation. 

1 Art. 295
Art. 279
Art. 283, Para. 1
UN Charter, Art.33, Para. 1
Art. 300
Art. 284, Annex V
Art. 284, Para . 2
Art. 297; Annex V, 11-14
Art. 297, Para . 2 

11 Art. 297, Para . 3 
12 Art. 286 
Art. 297, Para . 2-3  
14 Art. 298, Subpara. 1 (a)   
Art. 298, Subpara. 1 (b)
Art. 298, Subpara. 1 (c)
Art. 288,  Para . 1-2
Art. 287, Subpara 1 (a) 
Art. 287, Para . 4
20 Art. 292, Para . 1

21 Annex VI, Art, 14 and 35
Art. 287, Para . 2; Art. 288, Para . 3
Art. 188, Subpara. 1 (a)
Art. 188, Subpara. 1 (b)
Art. 290
Art. 293
Art. 294
Art. 296
29  e.g. Art. 280, 299(2)  

For disputes concerning the interpretation or applicability of the Convention, the compulsory procedures entailing binding decisions apply[12] with two exceptions:

1. Cases where the coastal state has jurisdiction with regard to central questions of fisheries and marine scientific research[13];
Those cases where states have declared that they will not accept dispute settlement pro­cedures in one or more of the following causes of dispute:

- sea boundary delimitations[14]
military activities[15] 

law enforcement activities of coastal state for fisheries and scientific research;
disputes before the United Nations Security Council[16].

For procedural settlement of disputes[17], the parties may choose among four fora: two courts (the International Court of Justice and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea) and two arbitration tribunals[18]. If no declaration to the contrary is in force, the state party is deemed to have accepted arbitration in accordance with Annex VII[19]. Disputes involving release of vessels from detention can be submitted to the Tribunal of the Law of the Sea within ten days from the time of the detention, if the jurisdiction of no other court or tribunal is established[20]. For disputes with respect to interpretation of the Area provisions of Part XI, the jurisdiction of the Sea-Bed Disputes Chamber, a chamber of the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea[21] is compulsory[22], unless States Parties request that the dispute be submitted to a special chamber[23] or to an ad hoc chamber[24].

Of some importance for procedure are further provisions covering provisional measures[25], applicable law[26], preliminary proceedings[27], and the finality and binding force of decisions[28]. At all times of the dispute, the guiding principle is that the parties are free to choose any peaceful means of settling their differences[29].


1 Art. 295 ,  2 Art. 279,  3 Art. 283, Para. 1,  4 Art.279,   5 UN Charter, Art.33, Para. 1,   6 Art. 300,    7 Art. 284, Annex V,    8 Art. 284, Para . 2,    9 Art. 297; Annex V, 11-14,   10 Art. 297, Para . 2,   [1]1 Art. 297, Para . 3 ,    12 Art. 286 ,    13 Art. 297, Para . 2-3 ,   14 Art. 298, Subpara. 1 (a)  ,    15 Art. 298, Subpara. 1 (b),   16 Art. 298, Subpara. 1 (c),   17 Art. 288,  Para . 1-2,    18 Art. 287, Subpara 1 (a) ,    19 Art. 287, Para . 4,   20 Art. 292, Para . 1,   21 Annex VI, Art, 14 and 35,    22 Art. 287, Para . 2; Art. 288, Para . 3,   23 Art. 188, Subpara. 1 (a),    24 Art. 188, Subpara. 1 (b),.    25 Art. 290,    26 Art. 293,    27 Art. 294,    28 Art. 296,   29 e.g. Art. 280, 299(2),    

93] Art. 294Dispute Settlement Fora _UNCLOS 1982

[28] Art. 296

[29] e.g. Art. 280, 299(2)

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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