These Commentaries are based almost entirely on the formal and informal documentation of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III, 1973-1982), coupled, where necessary, with the personal knowledge of editors, contributors, or reviewers, many of whom were principal negotiators or UN personnel who participated in the Conference. The scope and duration of the “Virginia Commentary” project is without precedent as an academic undertaking in the field of international law. The project was conceived by its editors to meet the need - particularly essential in the absence of an official legislative history for the Convention - for an objective and comprehensive analysis of the articles in the Convention and in the Agreement relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the Convention that entered into force in 1996.
Throughout its nearly 5000 pages, the Commentary presents the text of each article and thereafter cites its documentary sources. The line-by-line development for each article is discussed chronologically for each session of the Conference. Over 100 international law scholars or Conference diplomats, reflecting a wide diversity of views, contributed to drafting or reviewing the Commentaries.
The reputation of the Virginia Commentary is now firmly established as the most authoritative reference work in the field of international law about the 1982 Convention. The series is regularly cited in judicial proceedings and in scholarly publications around the world.
The authoritative credibility of the Commentary derives from the unique expertise and the hands-on experience of the principal author-editors of each volume and provides an unrivaled resource for international law practitioners, maritime law specialists, educators, government and military authorities and others interested in the UN Law of the Sea Convention.
The Supplement to the seven-volume series is also included in the online edition. Prepared at the University of Virginia's Center for Oceans Law and Policy, it contains additional primary documents and materials related directly to the Convention.