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School of Law

International Law and the Other Entities: System of Parallel Rights and Obligations in the Deep Seabed Regime

23 March 2016

Time: 3:00 - 4:30pm
Venue: Room 313, Third Floor, Law Building, Queen Mary University of London, E1 4NS Mile End Road, United Kingdom

Hosted by QMUL's Centre for Law and Society in a Global Context (CLSGC). Klara Polackova van der Ploeg (Graduate Institute, Geneva) and currently a Visiting Researcher at the CLSGC, will present this paper. Professor Yukiko Takashiba (Asia Pacific University; previously Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan and the International Court of Justice) will comment.

This event will be chaired by Professor Malgosia Fitzmaurice (QMUL).


As in other areas of international law, the law of the sea has been facing an increasing struggle to effectively regulate the activities (and to tap into the potential) of various collective non-state entities operating within its purview. While international law scholars have explored in detail the regulatory powers of states vis-à-vis collective non-state entities engaged in maritime activities, the (potential) binding regulation of these entities directly through the law of the sea has received only limited attention. To address this latter issue, the present paper examines the character of the legal regulation of “contractors” within the deep seabed regime under Part XI of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Agreement Relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the Convention, specifically focusing on the contractors’ binding legal rights and obligations.

The paper first shows how contractors in the Area (that is the seabed and ocean floor and subsoil thereof, beyond the limits of national jurisdiction) have become direct addressees of international legal norms, and thereby enjoy certain international legal rights and obligations. It then proceeds to examine the interplay between the direct rights and obligations of contractors, their sponsoring states and other (i.e. third) states, and elaborates on the legal implications of this regulatory structure. To better understand the regulation of contractor activities in the deep seabed regime, the paper develops the concept of “parallel rights and obligations”. Using this concept, the paper argues that the binding rights and obligations of contractors and of states are complementary and represent two types of regulatory tools employed simultaneously in attainment of the same regulatory goal. Finally, by drawing links and making comparisons to other areas of international law -- including the law of peace and security, international humanitarian law, and international investment law -- as well as general international law, the paper positions the deep seabed regime within the broader context of developments in international law towards the direct regulation of certain collective non-state entities.


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