Law of the Sea Goes Public
The American Sovereignty Campaign was launched during the Forum on the Law of the Sea last month by a diverse group of government and private sector representatives to educate the public on the importance of U.S. accession to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.
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John Ryan, chief legal officer at Level 3, underscored the company’s support for the U.S. accession to the Convention. Level 3 operates one of the largest Internet Protocol networks in the world, comprising fiber-optic cables entwined across the ocean floor to 45 countries — from North America, around Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Asia Pacific — or roughly 35,000 miles of sub-sea cable. To that end, he noted that the Internet continues to expand exponentially.
“The next 100 years are going to be about expanding our eyeballs around the world, and in order to do that, more subsea capacity needs to be deployed,” Ryan said.
He said Level 3 strongly supports U.S. accession for reasons that include the protection of international submarine cables; to expand the right to lay and maintain subsea cables; and to guarantee a meaningful dispute resolution process that relates to the operation and implementation of subsea cables.
“Any uncertainty in protecting the infrastructure puts the U.S. and U.S.-based companies at a competitive disadvantage relative to our competitors who are members of the Convention,” Ryan said. “And that uncertainty inhibits economic growth and investment.”
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Jennifer Warren, vice president, technology policy and regulation at Lockheed Martin, discussed the com- pany’s history and interest in deep seabed exploration, which dates back more than 40 years. She said it has generated more than 80 patents and invested more than $500 million in exploration largely in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone that extends from Baja California to Hawaii.
“Recent developments in deep seabed resources have really sharpened our interest in seeing Law of the Sea ratified as soon as possible,” Warren said.
Lockheed, she said, has maintained its licenses to to explore and extract rare earth minerals, even as the market for minerals lagged. However, today, the demand has risen sharply for “rare earths,” as they are known, which produce valuable metals for flat-screen televisions, electric hybrid batteries, tank armor, night-vision goggles and cell phones.
Furthermore, Warren said, Lockheed’s claims now are the only current active U.S.-based claims. Last July, the first four licenses for deep seabed exploration were granted by the International Seabed Authority (ISA), the organization created by the Convention to recognize mining claims beyond the continental margin, and two of them are held by China and Russia, she said.
"The importance of these resources is well understood internationally,” Warren said, describing the need to be a party to the Law of the Sea Convention in order to be an active participant and have authorities in, for example, the rule-making process within the ISA. “Other countries are moving forward quickly and aggressively to access them. As the only U.S.-based claimant, our view is pretty straightforward. Business initiatives to exploit deep seabed mineral resources will only be able to secure the necessary financial investments if done pursuant to the existing international framework.”
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According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Arctic could hold up to 12 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30 percent of its natural gas resources, [Heather Conley, senior fellow and director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies] said. This summer, she said, Shell Oil plans to drill in the Beauford and Chukchi Seas, whereby, according to one study 55,000 jobs could be created.
"Drilling on Alaska's outer continental shelf could make Alaska the eighth largest oil producer in the world before Nigeria, Libya, potentially Norway,” said Conley, who noted that Russia is submitting its second round of scientific claims to the Lomonsov Ridge, an undersea mountain chain that goes under the North Pole.
“How much economic activity do we want to forego? How many jobs do we not want to create?” she said.
John Nagl, nonresident senior fellow and former presi- dent at the Center for New American Security, reflected on sovereignty as it relates to national security, and said he encouraged the private sector to develop these resources once the United States accedes to the Convention.
“Our failure to ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty has had a chilling effect on commercial resources exploration and exploitation,” Nagl said. “The national debt is our biggest security problem; we’ve got to find ways to get a hold of that. There are dollars for the taking, [but] com- panies simply can’t make the risk profile work given our failure to ratify the Law of the Sea.”
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Caitlyn Antrim, executive director of the Rule of Law Committee for the Oceans, a nonpartisan educational group whose purpose is to inform public discourse regarding U.S. interests in accession to the Convention, expanded further on the history of the revenue-sharing issue. She said it is based on a package deal proposed in 1970 by then-President Richard M. Nixon in which a moderate royalty payment from sea-floor energy and mineral exploitation beyond the 200-meter “isobath” would be shared between the coastal state and the rest of world in return for recognition of the coastal state’s jurisdiction over minerals to the outer edge of the con- tinental margin and assured access for private develop- ers to minerals on the deep ocean floor.
“Over the course of the conference, negotiators reduced the area subject to revenue-sharing by moving the inner boundary of the region out to 200 nautical miles,” Antrim said. “The concept of sharing royalties from development of seabed resources beyond national boundaries has been endorsed by every president since Nixon, including President Reagan. The Convention is critical because industry will not invest billions of dollars without the international recognition of claims and title to recovered minerals it provides.
“The Convention also guarantees the U.S. a permanent seat on the council of the International Seabed Authority, the organization created to recognize min- ing claims beyond the continental margin, with veto power over rules and regulations, amendments and distribution plans for royalty payments,” she said. “The Authority will receive royalty payments whether or not the U.S. is a party, but the U.S. will only be able to exercise its veto over how those funds are distributed if we join the Convention.”