Table of Contents

Research Handbook on International Marine Environmental Law

Research Handbook on International Marine Environmental Law

Research Handbooks in Environmental Law series

Edited by Rosemary Rayfuse

This authoritative Handbook examines the current state and the future needs of international law in addressing the key activities that pose threats to the marine environment. Its chapters explore the legal framework for protection of the marine environment, pollution of the marine environment, seabed activities and the marine environment, protection of marine biodiversity, regional approaches to the protection of the marine environment and climate change and the marine environment. Each chapter goes beyond a survey of existing law to identify the shortcomings in the legal regime and areas of critical research needed to address these shortcomings. This book provides significant insights into contemporary issues surrounding the efficacy of the regime created by the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention and details the further work needed to ensure the design and implementation of effective regulation and management of human activities that affect the marine environment.

Chapter 5: Vessel-source pollution

Henrik Ringbom

Subjects: environment, environmental law, law - academic, environmental law, public international law


The chapter on vessel-source pollution discusses jurisdictional norms as set out in the Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC) as well as technical standards set developed, in particular, by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The chapter demonstrates that the adoption and widespread acceptance of the LOSC has not ended the discussion on jurisdictional rights and obligations in relation to vessel-source pollution. Rather, the discussion has shifted towards interpretation of certain key concepts used in the LOSC and, perhaps more importantly, to issues that are not conclusively regulated in the convention. Such open questions include the extent of port states’ (territorial) jurisdiction over foreign ships and the relationship between the jurisdictional regime of the LOSC and the bases for extra-territorial jurisdiction under general international law. At a technical level, ship-source pollution is highly regulated. The chapter provides a brief overview of the rules in the field, with a particular focus on measures to reduce air emissions from ships, which have dominated the regulatory agenda in the past decade and certain issues that are deemed to be of particular legal interest in the years to come. A separate section is included for the implementation and enforcement of the rules. IMO has a privileged position in the regulation of vessel-source pollution, which is also acknowledged in the LOSC. The organization’s role in developing the jurisdictional balance between flag states, coastal states and port states is highlighted. Yet, despite the tradition of centralized and global law-making for shipping, other bodies, including regional ones, have been increasingly active in this field since the turn of the Millennium. The role of these bodies in regulating and controlling ship-source pollution is also briefly reviewed.

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