Offshore operations are capital-intensive, requiring significant financing and insurance. Oil and natural gas companies do not want to undertake these massive expenditures if their lease sites may be subject to territorial dispute. They operate transnationally, and need to know that the title to the petroleum resources will be respected worldwide and not just in the United States.
Even though U.S. has not ratified UNCLOS, it still has committed itself to abiding by its principles in two ways: through numerous policy statements and laws drafted in accordance with UNCLOS and committing the U.S. to abiding by it; and due to the fact that the Law of the Sea has become customary international law.
Opponents argue that UNCLOS's provisions calling for states to reduce pollution through "best practicable means" could be used as a "backdoor" to force environmental treaties on the U.S. However, legal scholars and State Department officials have concluded that the convention only binds the United States to act in accordance with its own laws or appropriately ratified international agreements and cannot be used as a “back door” to compel enforcement of international agreements the Senate has not ratified.
By ratifying UNCLOS, the U.S. would be exposed to climate change lawsuits and other environmental actions brought against it by other members of the convention and the economic and political ramifications of such lawsuits could be dire.
Since UNCLOS is the basis of modern international law of the sea, the U.S. should ratify the Convention in order to more effectively exercise, maintain, and perpetuate its leadership and to strengthen the normative framework that UNCLOS provides.
UNCLOS could set a bad regulatory precedent for the commercial development of space. Subjecting private space exploration and development to a similar regulatory system would discourage private ventures just now getting underway.
Under the convention, the United States assumes a number of obligations at odds with its military practices and national security interests, including a commitment not to collect intelligence. The U.S. would sign away its ability to collect intelligence vital for American security within the “territorial waters” of any other country (Article 19). Further- more, U.S. submarines would be required to travel on the surface and show their flags while sailing within territorial waters (Article 20).
UNCLOS represents the consensus of decades of debate on how best to govern shared ocean resources and to handle disputes over border conflicts. The Arctic nations have settled on UNCLOS, adopting it in their laws and subsequent agreements, and it forms the basis for governance of the Arctic region.
U.S. ratification of UNCLOS will have a positive effect on the environment as the conservation of ocean wildlife, the protection of delicate marine ecosystems, and the control of marine pollution are by their very nature multilateral issues. U.S. ratification will demonstrate U.S. commitment to address these problems in a cooperative manner at a time when some view U.S. policy as generally antithetical to multilateral arrangements. The environmental community strongly favors UNCLOS and U.S. ratification would send a message of support