Bernaerts' Guide _UNCLOS 1982
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Book page 24-25  

Section: Part II, Articles 2-33

The actions of states, whether on a national or an international scale, are based on the Territoriasl Sea - UNCLOS 1982principle of sovereignty. When two or more sovereign subjects of international law meet, questions of jurisdiction arise, i.e., who has the right and obligation to act. The main purpose of the Convention is to define and regulate such questions relevant to the sea. A central point in this respect concerns how far from the coast the influence of a coastal state extends.

Figure enlargeable (also below)

For the average person, the sea begins at the beach, the coastline of the mainland, where realization that another world begins is unavoidable: a different environment of wind, waves, tides, special means of communications, fishing, and so on. This perception of the sea is almost identical with that part of the planet which the Convention seeks to regulate. However, the Convention does not necessarily see the natural coastline as the limit of the sea; instead, an artificial line, the baseline, is drawn, as will be described in the next section. Within this artificial line all water areas (which are known as internal waters), the mainland, and islands are not subject to the Convention, and the state can exercise its sovereignty as provided elsewhere in international law. 

Adjacent to this baseline is a belt of sea known as the territorial sea, which falls within the area governed by the Convention. Every state can establish a territorial sea with a maximum breadth of twelve nautical miles, measured from the baseline[1]. Nonetheless, the importance of the Convention for this area is somewhat lessened by the fact that the Convention itself declares that the sovereignty of the coastal state extends over the territorial sea, including the air space over the sea as well as its bed and subsoil[2]. This also applies to archipelagic waters[3]. The sovereignty of a coastal state as well as that of an archipelagic state[4] is limited only by the fact that this sovereignty must be exercised in accordance with the Convention and with international law[5]. However, the Convention retains precedence with respect to matters of navigation which are of considerable importance:

[1] Art. 3  ,      [2] Art. 2, Para . 1&2 ,        [3] Art.2; 49, Para.1  ,     [4] Part IV  ,    [5] Art.2, Para.3,  [6] Art. 192, 194,   [7] Art. 235,   [8] e.g., Art. 131; 258, 
[9] Art. 297, Para . 1

(1) Technical regulations for drawing the artificial baseline and extending the territorial sea by a maximum of twelve nautical miles measured from the baseline (Articles 3-16);

(2) Passage through the territorial sea (Articles 17-32), including suspension of navigation in certain areas (Article 25, Paragraph 3); Safety zones around scientific research installations (Article 260);

(3) Passage through straits (Articles 34-45); using the territorial sea of states bordering the strait (Article 37)

(4) Passage through archipelagic waters (Article 2, Paragraph 1; Articles 52-54);

(5) Pollution from vessels (Articles 194, Subparagraph 3(b), 211, 217-234).

The Convention also retains precedence in pollution matters, requiring states parties to protect and preserve the marine environment[6] in particular by controlling

(1) Pollution from land-based sources (Article 207),

(2) Pollution from sea-bed activities (Article 208),

(3) Pollution by dumping (Article 209), and

(4) Pollution from and "through the air (Article 210),

and holds the coastal state responsible for the fulfilment of its international obligations[7]. There are some further regulations imposing limits on the state's sovereignty, but they are generally of less importance[8].

The Convention jurisdiction thus described is subject to compulsory dispute settlement provided by the Convention[9].  

1 Art. 3 
2 Art. 2, Para . 1&2  
3 Art.2; 49, Para.1 
4 Part IV 
5 Art.2, Para.3
6 Art. 192, 194
Art. 235
e.g., Art. 131; 258
Art. 297, Para . 1
Further Readings :      
- Territorial Sea . (Commentary) 

-  Internal Waters, ‘Historic Bays’ and Ports. (Commentary) 
- The Reasons for International Maritime Conflicts. (Introduction) 
- The I and II UN Conferences on the Law of the Sea. (Introduction)

Article 2-23 ; UNCLOS 1982

NEXT page 26-27

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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