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India's "Deep Ocean Mission" - EEZ, Contiguous zone, UNCLOS and ISA

news-details Image Source Apr 08, 2021 14:07 IST · 4 min read

In September 2016, India signed a 15-year contract with the International Seabed Authority (ISA) for exploration of Poly-Metallic Sulphides (PMS) in the Indian Ocean.

The ISA is an institution set up under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to which India is a Party.

Poly-Metallic Sulphides (PMS), which contain iron, copper, zinc, silver, gold, platinum in variable constitutions, are precipitates of hot fluids from upwelling hot magma from deep interior of the oceanic crust, discharged through mineralized chimneys.

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), also called the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty, is an international agreement resulted from the third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III).

The Convention, concluded in 1982, replaced the quad-treaty 1958 Convention on the High Seas and came into force in 1994.

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982 divides marine areas into five main zones namely- Internal Waters, Territorial Sea, Contiguous Zone, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the High Seas.

1) Internal waters

Waters landward of the baseline are defined as internal waters, over which the state has complete sovereignty, not even innocent passage is allowed without explicit permission from said state. Lakes, rivers and archipelagic waters are considered internal waters.

2) Territorial waters

Territorial waters, or a territorial sea is a belt of coastal waters that go at most 12 nautical miles from the edge of a coastal state. The territorial sea is land of the state. Ships are let to sail on it. Ownership also extends to the airspace over and seabed below.

The territorial sea is regarded as the sovereign territory of the state, although foreign ships (military and civilian) are allowed innocent passage through it, or transit passage for straits.

3) Contiguous zone

The contiguous zone is a band of 12 nautical miles water extending farther from the outer edge of the territorial sea to up to 24 (12 TW+12 CZ) nautical miles from the baseline, within which a state can exert limited control for the purpose of preventing or punishing "infringement of its customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws and regulations within its territory or territorial sea".

4) Exclusive economic zone (EEZ)

An exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is a sea zone prescribed by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) over which a sovereign state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.

It stretches from the baseline out to 200 nautical milesfrom the coast of the state in question.

A coastal nation has control of all economic resources within its exclusive economic zone, including fishing, mining, oil exploration, and any pollution of those resources. However, it cannot prohibit passage or loitering above, on, or under the surface of the sea that is in compliance with the laws and regulations adopted by the coastal State in accordance with the provisions of the UN Convention, within that portion of its exclusive economic zone beyond its territorial sea.

5) High Seas

The ocean surface and the water column beyond the EEZ are referred to as the high seas. It is considered as the common heritage of all mankind and is beyond any national jurisdiction.

States can conduct activities in these areas as long as they are for peaceful purposes, such as transit, marine science, and undersea exploration.

What is continental shelf

The continental shelf of a coastal nation extends out to the outer edge of the continental margin but at least 200 nautical miles from the baselines of the territorial sea if the continental margin does not stretch that far.

Coastal states have the right of exploration and exploitation of the seabed and the natural resources that lie on or beneath it, however other states may lay cables and pipelines if they are authorised by the coastal state.

International Seabed Authority (ISA)

The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is an intergovernmental body based in Kingston, Jamaica.

It is established by UNCLOS to organize, regulate and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.

Related Info

Nov, 2020

According to "Ministry of Earth Sciences" - India is all set to launch an ambitious "Deep Ocean Mission" that envisages exploration of minerals, energy and marine diversity of the underwater world.

The project is expected to cost over Rs 4,000 crore, it will give a boost to efforts to explore India's vast Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf.

April, 2021

The government has asked the SC to close the criminal trials pending in India against two Italian marines accused of killing two fishermen off the coast of Kerala in 2012.

The government had explained that India is bound by the award of the arbitral tribunal formed under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The award is final and without appeal as India is a party to the UN Convention.