Existing treaties that laid the foundation for UNCLOS have been empirically obeyed by most parties
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There are many multilateral treaties that fill in the UNCLOS framework. These instruments are widely accepted and implemented, and they promote order and the free flow of commerce by prescribing universal standards for vessel construction, operation, and management, for the training and qualification of mariners, and the like. In accordance with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, they assign compliance responsibility to flag states.However, in the spirit of "trust but verify," they contain real enforcement mechanisms that enable coastal and port states to safeguard their vital interests, even in the face of occasionally lackadaisical flag-state oversight. Taken together, this "other" law of the sea serves a valuable purpose, the promotion of vessel safety and security and environmental stewardship. Statistics suggest that it is achieving its goals.
One way to determine the extent to which UNCLOS’s navigational provisions have achieved the status of binding international law is to study the behavior of nations. The consistent practice of states—maritime states, coastal states, UNCLOS members, and nonmembers—indicates that the UNCLOS navigational provisions are almost universally accepted law.