Bernaerts' Guide _UNCLOS 1982
                    Details to the book and online access below











Book pages 7-9


1. Participants, Sessions                                                

2. Initial Problems                                                        

3. "Gentleman's Agreement" and "Package Deal"                       
4. Negotiating Process


SEA (1973-1982)  

1. Participants, Sessions  

When in 1972 the UN General Assembly confirmed its decision to convene the Conference in 1973, it assumed the sessions would last through 1974, but finish no later than 1975. In the event, the first session of the Conference was opened on December 3, 1973, and the Conference concluded on September 24, 1982. During these nine years eleven sessions, including five resumed, sessions, were held, one in Caracas, five in Geneva, and ten in New York, with two exceptions, the sessions and resumed sessions lasted about one to two months each. A large number of the member states of the United Nations participated in the Conference: a total of 164 states were registered and an average of 140 delegations were represented at the sessions. More than one hundred observers from territories, organizations and specialized agencies of the United Nations, liberation movements, and other inter-governmental as well as non-governmental organizations also took part.  

2. The Initial Problems  

The Conference was confronted with a list of no fewer than twenty-five different topics, ranging from the broad areas discussed at the 1958 and 1960 conferences to a number of new fields such as land-locked states, shelf-locked states, marine environ­ment, scientific research, archipelagoes, and a report of the Sea-Bed Committee consisting of six volumes, containing hundreds of individual proposals, but lacking a single negotiating text. The topics were often technical, of widely differing nature, and highly complex, such as the technical, commercial, scientific, and financial impact of deep sea mining. In addition, many specific national interests had to be considered, arising from reasons of security, strategy, and economic resources. The work was further hampered by the fact that many of the topics such as straits or the continental shelf were highly controversial or included novel concepts.  

3. "Gentleman's Agreement" and "Package Deal"  

Both the General Assembly and the Conference were well aware that the new Convention would be of value only if it found wide acceptance in the international community. In order to ensure such acceptance as far as humanly possible, the General Assembly approved a text which was later incorporated into a declaration appended to the Rules of Procedure of the Conference, adopted at the second session. According to this "Gentleman's Agreement,"  

The Conference should make every effort to reach agreement on substantive matters by way of consensus and there should be no voting on such matters until all efforts at consensus have been exhausted.  

The unique rules of procedure consequently contained special provisions to avoid or delay the taking of decisions on substantive matters by voting. Delaying a vote was introduced to provide a cooling-off period and to avoid hasty voting, a further step to achieve the greatest possible unity among the participants.

In addition, the Conference agreed to work on the basis of a "package deal." This concept assumed that the Convention should meet the minimum interests of the largest possible majority, while at the same time accommodating the essential interests of the major powers and the dominant interest groups. It was also implicit that there would be trade-offs and reciprocal support between various claims.

4. The Negotiating Process  

The negotiations during the Conference were conducted in several different types of groups, according to the nature of the topic under discussion. General issues and the subjects of peaceful use of the oceans and enhancement of the universal participation of states were dealt with in the plenary. Other subjects were delegated to the Main Committees as follows:  

First Committee: Regime of the sea-bed and ocean floor beyond national jurisdiction;

Second Committee: The common regime of the law of the sea and related topics;

Third Committee: Environment, scientific research and development, and transfer of technolgy.  

There was also the General Committee, which acted as the Conference bureau, the Credentials Committee, and the Drafting Committee. The task of the latter was to formulate drafts and give advice on drafting upon request, without re-opening sub­stantive discussion on any matter.

The Main Committees worked with various forms and methods of negotiations. There was a trend toward simplification of the negotiation process by reducing the number of delegations at times to even fewer than ten, while always taking care to include representation of divergent interests. 

NEXT pages 9-15


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


Click here

Bernaerts Guide -UNCLOS 1982

English and Russian
Click here






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.


Last upsate 31 December 2012

Main Sites on Climate Change during World Wars
Book 2012:

Arctic Warming 1919 – A World War I Issue

  Books 2005/06
Book 2005:
Ditto (short version):
 Booklet 2006:
Booklet in Russian 2006:

Reference SEA-LAW (UNCLOS) links : , ,

Material in German

Miscellaneous , ,