Wednesday, December 7, 2011

U.S. State Department unveils website on the Law of the Sea Convention

The U.S. Department of State recently launched a new website designed to educate readers about the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and promote benefits of accession to the treaty. Partly in anticipation of the treaty's consideration in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (as of yet unscheduled), the State Department's Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs issued several fact sheets in July 2011 that are now available on the website.  The overview fact sheet characterizes the Convention as "a key piece of unfinished treaty business for the United States;" the others address business and national security reasons to support accession to the Convention.

The entries at the bottom of this Arctic Mapping blog provide general information about the history of non-accession to the Convention in the United States; those in the upper right hand margin track more recent developments and expressions of support for accession. 

Icebreaking into the Arctic

The USCGC HEALY embarked Barrow, Alaska, in August 2008 to map the US extended continental shelf, or ECS, in the Arctic Ocean (HLY 0805). Healy sailed again from 7 August to 16 September, 2009 (HLY 0905) to continue ECS mapping, joining with the Canadian icebreaker, the Louis S. St.-Laurent. The two vessels mapped together again in 2010 (see HLY1002) and 2011 (HLY1102).

As the only law professor on the science crew, I was along on HLY 0805 and 0905 to better understand
the science behind the legal process that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea establishes for states making ECS submissions. As to why the US is mapping now, even though it has not yet acceded to the Convention, read on both here, and in the Law of the Sea notes below.

Thanks to
Vermont Law School and especially to Larry Mayer, Director of the University of New Hampshire's Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, for making my part in the trip possible.
Thanks, as well, to Adriane Colburn, for opening new windows on and for the deep.