JIS News

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. A.J. Nicholson, said that developing countries like Jamaica, must “move with alacrity” to explore development opportunities in the deep seabed.

He was speaking on February 29 at the official launch of observations marking the 30th Anniversary of the Opening for Signature of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel.

The Minister stated that as land resources become exhausted and as the earth reels from environmental degradation and consumption and production patterns, a myriad of opportunities are waiting to be unearthed in the ocean.

He argued that in order for developing countries to benefit from the potentially limitless opportunities, which abound, marine scientific research is key. In that regard, he appealed to “those in a position to do so, to contribute to the International Seabed Authority’s (ISA) Endowment Fund as an investment into the future of those who we will leave behind to manage the affairs of the oceans.”

He also called on eligible Jamaicans to take advantage of the opportunities afforded through the Endowment Fund in order to “build capacity and technical expertise,” in support of national development.

UNCLOS, which serves as the international legal framework governing the use of the world’s oceans, was opened for signature in Montego Bay on December 10, 1982.

Minister Nicolson recalled that the deliberations leading to the signing of the Convention was the “longest and largest diplomatic undertaking in the 66-year history of the United Nations. Clearly, this was one of the most important international legislation to have been forged in the 21st Century”.

He informed that the opening for signature attracted a record 119 members, the largest number ever affixed to a treaty on its first day.

Today, 30 years on, membership stands at 163, “a signal of steady progress towards the ultimate goal of universality, and a testimony to the continued relevance and significance of the Convention,” the Minister stated.                                 

Highlighting the achievements under UNCLOS, he said the Convention has “fundamentally transformed the legal architecture” governing and regulating the use of the oceans.

He noted that overtime, the treaty has facilitated the delimitation of maritime boundaries and many delimitation disputes, which could have escalated into major conflicts, have been resolved through the application of the regulations as stipulated under the Convention, “contributing to the maintenance of international peace and security."

From a national standpoint, the Minister said that Jamaica’s declaration of archipelagic status in 1997 was done on the basis of the provisions of the Convention, thus enlarging the marine territory 24 times its original size.

Further, he observed that more than 90 per cent of Jamaica’s trade is carried out by sea and so the standards for shipping facilitated by UNCLOS are critical in ensuring that “our imports are landed on our shores without incident and that our exports are transported safely to their destination."

He said that the Convention also provides for cooperation to ensure that the country’s fragile living marine resources are not endangered by over-exploitation. “This has enabled Jamaica to establish a mechanism to manage its fisheries resources and the highly valued conch industry, which is a significant source of employment and foreign exchange,” he noted.

The Minister also observed that theemphasis on the protection of the marine environment from harmful effects and on natural resource conservation is of great importance to Jamaica, as a small island developing state heavily reliant on resources from the ocean. 

Minister Nicholson said the celebration of the 30th anniversary provides an opportunity for the global community to reflect on the various achievements.

He said that for Jamaica, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary of Independence this year, the observance offers an opportunity to recall with pride “the important role played by this small island state situated in the Caribbean Sea, in crafting this important piece of legislation.”

Jamaica is also home to the headquarters of the ISA, which was created under the Convention in 1994, to regulate deep seabed mining and administer mineral resources in the area of the ocean beyond national jurisdiction.

The other two institutions created under UNCLOS are: the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg, Germany, which adjudicates disputes arising out of the interpretation or implementation of the Convention or concerning deep seabed mining; and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, which makes recommendations to states on matters related to the establishment of the outer limits of the continental shelf, in cases where the shelf extends beyond 200 nautical miles from their baselines. The Commission meets at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.


By Allan Brooks, JIS Reporter