UNCLOS convention already forms basis for international maritime law but U.S. is left out of discussion on its direction
Every year that goes by without the U.S. joining the Convention results in deepening our country's submission to ocean laws and practices determined by foreign governments without U.S. input. Our Navy and our ocean industries operate every day in a maritime environment that is increasingly dominated by foreign decision-making. In almost any other context, the Senate would be outraged at subjecting Americans to foreign controls without U.S. input.
What many observers fail to understand about Law of the Sea is that the Convention already forms the basis of maritime law regardless of whether the United States is a party. International decisions related to resource exploitation, navigation rights, and other matters will be made in the context of the Convention whether we join or not. Because of this, there is virtual unanimity in favor of this treaty among people who actually deal with oceans on a daily basis and invest their money in job-creating activities on the oceans.
By not joining the treaty, we are abetting Russian ambitions in the Arctic. We are making the job of our Navy more difficult, despite the longstanding and nearly unanimous pleas of Navy leaders that U.S. participation in Law of the Sea will help them maintain navigational rights more effectively and with less risk to the men and women they command. We are turning our backs on the requests of important American industries that use the oceans and must abide by rules established under this Convention. We are diminishing our chances for energy independence by making U.S. oil and gas exploration in international waters less likely. And we will not even be able to participate in the amendment process to this treaty, which is far more likely to impose new requirements on our Navy and ocean industries if the U.S. is absent.
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.