U.S. non-party status to UNCLOS complicates efforts at negotiating agreements at the IMO where most rules are based on UNCLOS
[ Page 5 ]
The Convention recognizes that various UN subsidiary bodies may serve as competent international organizations for the further Conventional development of the law of the sea. IMO has always been the recognized competent international organization for maritime safety and marine environmental protection. It has now assumed a similar role in port facility and vessel security. Acceding to the Convention will enhance Coast Guard efforts to work in the international community through the International Maritime Organization, the International Labor Organization and other UN subsidiary bodies to improve our security measures and to project our maritime domain awareness, consistent with the Convention’s balance of states’ rights to the uses of the oceans. Specifically, we are working now at IMO to build upon the successes achieved by the United States in that body at the December 2002 diplomatic conference. As you know, that diplomatic conference resulted in the landmark amendments to the SOLAS Convention for vessel and port facility security contained in Chapter XI and the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code. We have on-going efforts in respect of Conference Resolution 10 to enhance our maritime domain awareness through Long Range Tracking of vessels bound for our ports and waters. These negotiations are taking place in the context of the overwhelming number of nations at IMO being parties to the Law of the Sea Convention. Because of this fact, the Law of the Sea Convention provides the framework for the discussions and agreements. Although we have enjoyed success in the international security agreements so far, those negotiations have not always been easy. Further progress will not be as easy to achieve as our past successes. Frankly, the fact that the United States is not a party to the Law of the Sea Convention, when the overwhelming number of our international partners are parties, has occasionally put us in a difficult negotiating position at IMO. It is our judgment that accession to the Convention will put us in a stronger position at the IMO than we currently enjoy.
As the pre-eminent global maritime power, the U.S. has significant interests in the global effect of the Convention’s rules and their interpretation with many issues that of greater concern to us than to most other countries (for example, preserving freedom of navigation rights). Our adversaries view this as a weakness they can exploit and are shaping the course of the convention in ways adverse to U.S. interests while the U.S. remains on the sidelines, unable to participate in the discussion as a non-party.