U.S. ratification of UNCLOS key to a number of maritime industries
Without the universally recognized legal regime governing the exploitation of the mineral resources of the deep-sea beyond the zones of national jurisdictions that UNCLOS provides, US companies will not assume the investment rights associated with such projects until it was clear who had “clear legal title” to the resources extracted.
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Recent discoveries by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) icebreaker Healy reveal that the U.S. continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean is much more extensive than originally thought. Only by becoming party to UNCLOS and participating in its processes, however, can the United States obtain secure title to these vast resources, adding some 290,000 square miles for sovereign resource exploitation.29 Moreover, no American business enterprise is likely to invest the many billions of dollars necessary to develop a distant, deep-water off-shore oil or gas field, no matter how rich it might be, unless it has an undisputed right to do so under both domestic and international law. In addition, the Convention's deep seabed mining provisions, as amended in 1994, would permit and encourage American businesses to pursue free-market- oriented approaches to deep ocean mining. The 1994 "Part XI Implementing Agreement" was crafted in such a way so as to protect the interests of investors and the United States. "31 As a result, the off-shore oil and gas and mining industries all strongly support accession to UNCLOS. Economic self- sufficiency and development of off-shore ocean resources contribute directly to our national security.
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Another key purpose of the Coast Guard is to promote safe and secure international trade. The Convention promotes the freedom of navigation and overflight by which international shipping and transportation help supercharge the global economy. Some ninety percent of global trade tonnage, totaling over six trillion in value, including oil, iron ore, coal, grain, and other commodities, building materials, and manufacturer goods, travels on and over the world's oceans and seas each year.33 By guaranteeing merchant vessels and aircraft their right to navigate on, over, and through international straights, archipelagic waters, and coastal zones, the provisions of UNCLOS promote dynamic international trade. It reduces costs and eliminates delays that would occur if coastal states were able to impose the restrictions on such navigational rights that existed prior to the Convention.
At the same time, UNCLOS encourages international cooperation to enhance the safety and security of all ocean-going ships. Whether it involves lumber and winter wheat shipped from the Pacific Northwest to Japan, high- quality, low-cost goods from Singapore to Long Beach, or oil from the Persian Gulf to Europe, free, safe, and secure commercial navigation and flights provide great economic and security benefits to all ofus. That is the key reason the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, shipping industry, aviation industry, and other international trade groups have called for immediate accession to the Convention.
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U.S. industry and trade groups have fallen in behind the Law of the Sea Convention in order to be able to sponsor U.S.-based businesses in operations that involve territory within and beyond America’s Exclusive Economic Zone, and particularly in the Arctic, areas that call for “the maximum level of international legal certainty,” Clinton said at the May hearing.
To that end, American companies like Lockheed Martin, which has a 40-year history in sea floor exploration and is known as a “pioneer investor” under terms of the Convention, refuse to pursue exploitation of minerals as a U.S. operation without being party to the Convention, because it is the accepted international framework for obtaining secure title to deep seabed mining claims.