Bernaerts' Guide _UNCLOS 1982
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Book page 94-95


Section: Annex IX - Link to Full Text

  Int. Organisation - Unclos 1982The term "international organizations" in this context refers only to intergovernmental organizations, meaning that two or more governments have concluded an agreement for general or specific purposes (e.g., the European Economic Community (EEC) or the Saudi-Sudanese Red Sea Joint Commission, which was founded for the purpose of exploring and exploiting the non-living resources beyond the 1000 meter depth isobath in the Red Sea). Such organizations can obtain the status of a state party[1] and thus become a member of the Sea-Bed Authority[2] on two conditions:  

First: The member states of an intergovernmental organization must have transferred partially or wholly their competence over matters governed by the Convention, including the competence to enter into treaties in respect to matters governed by the Convention.[3] A state party may - in theory - transfer all of its rights of voting, decision-making, and presentation and nomination to an organization. Although the provisions allow for the transfer of "obligations,"[4] it is not clear to what extent a state can transfer obligations laid upon it by the Convention. To what extent does the term "transfer of competence"[5] include obligations? The Annex mentions that the organization is to comply with obligations,[6] but this might be easier said than done. In any case, state parties to an organization carrying out activities in the Area are to ensure that appropriate legislation for indemnity is implemented in respect to such organizations.[7]  

[1] Art. 1, Subpara. 2(2),   
[2] Art. 156, Para . 2,   
[3] AIX, Art. 1,   
[4] AIX, Art. 4, Para . 1&3,   
[5] AIX, Art.1,    
[6] AIX, Art. 6, Para . 1; cf. AIX, Art. 4, Para . 1,
[7] Art. 139, Para . 3 ,    
AIX, Art. 3; Art. 306-307,   
[9] AIX, Art. 5, Para . 1-2,    
[10] AIX, Art. 4, Para . 2,   
[11] AIX, Art. 4, Para . 4,   
[12] AIX, Art. 4, Para . 5, 
[13] AIX, Art. 4, Para . 6,   
[14] AIX, Art. 8, Subpara. (a),   
15] AIX, Art. 6-7,   
[16] AIX, Art. 2; Art. 305,   
AIX, Art. 3; Art. 307

Second: An organization may deposit an instrument of formal confirmation or accession only if (a) a majority of its members have deposited their instruments of ratification or accession,[8] (b) a declaration is deposited specifying the competence which has been transferred,[9] and (c) the instrument of the organization contains an undertaking accepting the rights and obligations of states in respect of matters relating to which competence has been transferred.[10] Under no circumstances may the participation of an organization create more or new rights. For this reason, there may be no increase in representation,[11] rights under the Convention may not be transferred to member states which are not states parties to the Convention,[12] nor may the obligations arising from the agreement establishing the organization prevail over the obligations under the Convention;[13] finally, the instrument of formal confirmation or accession of an international organization is not taken into account in determining when the Convention enters into force.[14]

With respect to responsibility, liability, and settlement of disputes, regulatory provisions are provided[15] to place membership of organizations on equal footing with membership of states. The participation of organizations appears to be a simple matter, but if a larger number of organizations take advantage of the opportunity, it might prove very problematic if, for example, not all member states of an organization are states parties to the Convention, or with respect to "obligations" of the Convention for states parties.

The European Economic Community is so far the only international intergovernmental organization to have even signed the Convention,[16] but it or other organizations might yet confirm or accede to the Convention.[17]   

[1] Art. 1, Subpara. 2(2),   [2] Art. 156, Para . 2,      [3] AIX, Art. 1,    [4] AIX, Art. 4, Para . 1&3,    [5] AIX, Art.1,    [6] AIX, Art. 6, Para . 1; cf. AIX, Art. 4, Para . 1,   [7] Art. 139, Para . 3 ,    [8] AIX, Art. 3; Art. 306-307,    [9] AIX, Art. 5, Para . 1-2,    [10] AIX, Art. 4, Para . 2,    [11] AIX, Art. 4, Para . 4,    [12] AIX, Art. 4, Para . 5,    [13] AIX, Art. 4, Para . 6,    [14] AIX, Art. 8, Subpara. (a),    [15] AIX, Art. 6-7,    [16] AIX, Art. 2; Art. 305,   [17] AIX, Art. 3; Art. 307

Further readings:  - Governmental Organizations as Parties to the Convention. (Commentary) , page 110

Participation of Organisations - UNCLOS 1982

NEXT: page 96-97

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;

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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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