Bernaerts' Guide _UNCLOS 1982
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Book page 42-43

Section: Part VII, Articles 86-120

  The High Seas - UNCLOS 1982Beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, the water column and the air space above the oceans are governed by the regime of the high seas.[1] When coastal states have established exclusive economic zones - and that is already (or will in future be) the rule - the high seas are the ocean space beyond the 200 nautical mile limit of this zone.[2]

The high seas are to be open and freely available for use by all states, regardless of their location Their use is to be governed by the principle of equal rights for all[3]. No state may validly purport to subject any part of the high seas to its sovereignty;[4] in agreeing to the Convention, all states acknowledge that these oceans are reserved for peaceful purposes.[5] These are, after all, merely the logical consequences of the Convention's aim to maintain peace, justice, and progress for all people of the world.[6]

Within this context, the regime of the high seas is based on the freedom to use the oceans. In exercising its right of use of the high seas, no state may interfere with the justified and equal interests of other states[7] or act in a manner which would constitute an abuse of the rights recognized by the Convention.[8] States are also to respect the activities on the sea-bed in the Area, which are managed by the Sea-Bed Authority in the interests of mankind as a whole[9]. A similar attitude shall be required from coastal states undertaking activities on the "outer shelf," and the coastal state is to avoid any unjustified interference with the rights of other states.[10]

The Convention establishes freedom of activity in six general fields: (1) navigation, (2) overflight, (3) laying of cables and pipelines, (4) artificial islands and installations, (5) fishing, and (6) marine scientific research.[11] This is not intended as a conclusive list, nor does this listing in any way prejudice possible rights of coastal states.[12]                 

[1] Art.86 ,  
[2] Art. 57,
[3] Preamble;87-90, 
[4] Art. 89, 
[5] Art. 88,  
[6] Preamble,  
[7] Art. 87, Para . 2; 301, 
[8] Art. 300,
Art. 87, Para . 2; Part XI (Art. 137, Para. 2), 
Art. 78, Para . 2
[11] Art. 87, Para . 1,  
[12] Art. 63; 64; 116(b); 77, Para . 1, 
[13] Art. 90,  
[14] Art. 91
[15] Art. 92, Para . 1, 
Art. 94,  
[17] Art. 194, 211, 217,  
[18] Art. 97, 
[19] e.g. Art. 97, 221,  
Art. 99-110, 
[21] Art. 95, 96  

    Freedom of navigation is of utmost importance for all, for the shipping community and naval forces as well as for the fishing industries and marine scientific research. Every state has the right to sail ships and participate in navigation[13] by granting its nationality to vessels which are registered with the state and which fly its flag.[14] Such flag states have the right and duty to exercise their exclusive jurisdiction on ships on the high seas.[15] This includes administrative, technical, social,[16] and pollution[17] matters. Other states are generally excluded from exercising any jurisdiction, e.g., penal, disciplinary, arrest, or detention matters in collision cases,[18] although there are exceptions;[19] furthermore, there are activities generally considered reprehensible[20] (see following pages). Government-owned non-commercial vessels and warships are under no cir­cumstances subject to the jurisdiction of other states.[21]

For the use of artificial installations in and airplanes over the high seas, the Convention provides only regulatory provisions in respect to scientific research and pollution. For these freedoms and those of fishing, cables, and pipelines, see Further Readings .  

[1] Art.86 ,  [2] Art. 57, [3] Preamble;87-90,  [4] Art. 89,  [5] Art. 88,  [6] Preamble,  [7] Art. 87, Para . 2; 301,  [8] Art. 300, [9] Art. 87, Para . 2; Part XI(Art. 137, Para. 2), [10] Art. 78, Para . 2,  [11] Art. 87, Para . 1,  [12] Art. 63; 64; 116(b); 77, Para . 1,  [13] Art. 90,  [14] Art. 91, [15] Art. 92, Para . 1,  [16] Art. 94,  [17] Art. 194, 211, 217,  [18] Art. 97,  [19] e.g. Art. 97, 221,  [20] Art. 99-110,  [21] Art. 95, 96  
Further Readings :
- Fisheries. (Commentary)
- Marine Scientific Research. (Commentary)
- Submarine Cables and Pipelines. (Commentary)
- Artificial Islands and Structures. (Commentary)
- Overflight. (Commentary)
- The High Seas. (Commentary 

Concept "High Seas" - UNCLOS 1982

Next page 44-45

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 




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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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