This is the latest in a series of annual surveys in this Journal reviewing dispute settlement in the law of the sea, both under Part XV of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and outside the framework of the Convention. It covers developments during 2020. The most significant developments were awards by the arbitral tribunals in the Enrica Lexie and Coastal State Rights cases.
This study analyzes the legal requirements concerning discharges from ships, a matter that is characterized by a considerable degree of complexity. This complexity results, inter alia, from the highly technical nature of the applicable norms, but also from the fact that the relevant rules and principles are prescribed in a wide and often overlapping variety of instruments on different levels of law, namely public international law, European Union law (where applicable) and domestic law. Taking into account that the individual legal instruments within these sub-systems of law significantly differ in their spatial and substantive scopes and regulatory approaches, a risk of conflicts of norms exists both from a vertical (i.e., between different levels of law) and horizontal (i.e., between different instruments on the same level of law) perspective. This situation gives rise to legal uncertainties, which may ultimately threaten the lawful and effective application and implementation of the relevant norms. This study attempts to clarify the existing uncertainties and to suggest harmonized interpretations and applications of the pertinent rules and principles. It does not address the issue of pollution from ships in general, but focuses on three specific categories of vessel discharges, namely scrubber washwater, sewage and ballast water.
Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSAs) are a form of marine conservation measure established by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to protect the marine environment against damage caused by navigation. The politicisation of the PSSA designation process and the shortcomings of the 2015 IMO Revised Guidelines for the Identification and Designation of PSSAs have been inimical to improving the PSSA regime. This article first examines the law and practice of PSSAs and discusses the shortcomings of the 2005 Guidelines. It then explores how politicisation outside and inside the IMO has aggravated the institutional weaknesses of the PSSA regime in three aspects: the relationships between Associated Protective Measures (APMs) and existing navigational measures; the links between the ecosystems and PSSAs; and the lack of stringent APMs.
Among the new technologies being deployed at sea, maritime autonomous vehicles (MAV) are of increasing interest to States to enhance their intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to improve their maritime security. This article analyses the international law implications of this use of MAV to support maritime law enforcement efforts in response to drug trafficking and other crimes at sea. The use of MAV for criminal purposes, especially smuggling goods, also holds international law consequences. The article assesses how these different operations of MAV fit within existing legal regimes, highlighting emerging legal questions for resolution and setting out recommendations for law reform to enhance counter-smuggling operations at sea.
The safety of offshore oil and gas facilities is a deep concern in relation to the security of China’s fossil energy supply. At present, there are a series of international law protection systems with the offshore facility safety zone system as the core. Most of world’s major maritime countries have established offshore oil and gas facilities protection systems in the form of domestic legislation in accordance with relevant international law, and some of them have adopted measures expanding the scope of their safety zones to strengthen protection. However, there remain some defects in the existing international law system. Therefore, the Chinese government needs to promptly clarify its position on issues related to the offshore facilities safety zone system, and propose the formulation of a specialised convention.