Ratification of UNCLOS key to resolving numerous boundary disputes in a consistent manner
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As regards maritime boundaries, there presently exist about 200 undemarcated claims in the world with 30 to 40 actively in dispute. There are 24 island disputes. The end of the Cold War and global expansion of free market economies have created new incentives to resolve these disputes, particularly with regard to offshore oil and natural gas exploration. During the last few years hundreds of licenses, leases or other contracts for exploration rights have been granted in a variety of nations outside the U.S. These countries are eager to determine whether or not hydrocarbons are present in their continental shelves, and disputes over maritime boundaries are obstacles to states and business organizations which prefer certainty in such matters. We have had two such cases here in North America where bilateral efforts have been made to resolve the maritime boundaries between the U.S. and Mexico in the Gulf of Mexico and between the U.S. and Canada in the Beaufort Sea. Both of these initiatives have been driven by promising new petroleum discoveries in the regions. The boundary line with Mexico was resolved in 2000 after a multi-year period of bilateral negotiations. Negotiations with Canada, however, seem to be languishing.
While such bilateral resolution is always an option, the Convention provides stability and recognized international authority, standards and procedures for use in areas of potential boundary dispute, as well as a forum for dealing with such disputes and other issues.