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The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea

Law, Practice and Procedure

P. Chandrasekhara Rao and Philippe Gautier

This book provides a first-hand insight into the constitution, jurisdiction, procedure and judicial practice of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. It provides a valuable guide to the jurisprudence of the Tribunal over the past 20 years, and serves as a reference point for practical information on how cases are received and handled by the Tribunal.
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Law, Practice and Procedure

P. Chandrasekhara Rao and Philippe Gautier


List of abbreviations

Table of cases

Table of articles of the Convention, the 1994 Agreement relating to the Implementation of the Convention, the Statute and the Rules of the Tribunal


1. Historical background  1.001

A. From Mare liberum to the Geneva Conventions  1.001

B. The Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (1973–1982)  1.007

C. The Convention and the 1994 Agreement  1.015

D. Future developments  1.019

2. The system for the settlement of disputes concerning law of the sea matters  1.022

A. Settlement of disputes under the Convention (Part XV)  1.023

(a) General provisions (s.1)  1.023

(i) Obligation to settle disputes by peaceful means (art. 279)  1.023

(ii) Settlement of disputes by any peaceful means chosen by the parties (art. 280)  1.024

(iii) Procedure where no settlement has been reached by the parties (art. 281)  1.026

(iv) Obligations under general, regional or bilateral agreements (art. 282)  1.028

(v) Obligation to exchange views (art. 283)  1.029

(vi) Conciliation (art. 284)  1.032

(vii) Application of section 1 to disputes submitted pursuant to Part XI (art. 285)  1.033

(b) Compulsory procedures entailing binding decisions  1.034

(i) Obligation to abide by a compulsory procedure entailing binding decisions for disputes arising out of the Convention  1.034

(ii) Choice of procedure  1.036   

(c) Limitations and exceptions to applicability of section 2   1.045

(i) Limitations on applicability of section 2 (art. 297)   1.046

(ii) Optional exceptions to applicability of section 2 (art. 298)  1.049

(iii) Right of the parties to agree upon a procedure (art. 299)  1.055

B. Mechanisms entailing binding decisions outside the scope of the compulsory procedures under section 2 of Part XV  1.056

(a) Law of the sea disputes and the ICJ  1.060

(b) Dispute settlement mechanisms under agreements other than the Convention  1.065

C. International practice  1.076


1. Legal status, seat, privileges and immunities  2.006

A. 1997 Agreement on Privileges and Immunities  2.007

B. Premises Agreement, 2000  2.010

C. Headquarters Agreement, 2004  2.011

D. Facilities in other countries  2.016

E. Relationship Agreement with the UN, 1997  2.017

F. The Tribunal as an international organization  2.019

2. The judiciary  2.022

A. Composition and election  2.022

B. Nationality and regional distribution of seats  2.027

C. Term of office  2.032

D. Independence of judges  2.039

E. Conditions of service  2.042

F. Privileges and immunities  2.047

G. President and Vice-President  2.050

H. Extra-judicial functions (appointing authority)  2.054

I. Judges ad hoc  2.061

3. Experts under article 289 of the Convention  2.070

4. Seabed Disputes Chamber  2.075

5. Special chambers  2.080

A. Standing special chambers  2.081

B. Ad hoc special chambers  2.089

C. Chamber of Summary Procedure  2.093

6. Committees  2.096

7. Official languages  2.097

8. The Registry  2.106

A. The Registrar and the Deputy-Registrar  2.110

B. Staff members  2.115

9. Expenses of the Tribunal  2.122

10. Relations with other institutions and bodies  2.126

A. United Nations  2.129

B. Meeting of States Parties  2.132

C. Cooperation with other institutions  2.135


1. Definitions  3.015

2. Jurisdiction ratione personae  3.025

A. Access to the Tribunal  3.026

(a) States Parties  3.027

(b) Entities other than States Parties  3.030

(i) Part XI of the Convention  3.032

(ii) Other agreements  3.034

B. ‘Indispensable party’ or ‘proper respondent’  3.036

3. Jurisdiction ratione materiae of the Tribunal in disputes concerning the interpretation or application of the Convention  3.038

A. Existence of a dispute  3.038

B. Dispute concerning the interpretation or application of the Convention  3.043

C. Limitations and exceptions to the compulsory mechanism  3.050

(a) Limitations (art. 297)  3.053

(b) Optional exceptions (art. 298)  3.061   

(i) Delimitation disputes  3.062

(ii) Disputes concerning military activities and law enforcement activities  3.064

4. Consent to jurisdiction  3.068

A. Declarations under article 287 of the Convention  3.072

(a) State practice  3.074

(b) Practice of the Tribunal  3.077

B. Agreements transferring arbitral proceedings instituted under Annex VII to the Convention  3.082

C. Special agreements  3.083

D. Forum prorogatum  3.085

E. Compulsory jurisdiction of the Tribunal  3.088

F. Preconditions for the seizure of the Tribunal (arts 283, 281, 282)  3.090

(a) Exchange of views under article 283 of the Convention  3.091

(b) Procedure where no settlement has been reached by the parties (art. 281)  3.101

(c) Obligations under general, regional or bilateral agreements (art. 282)  3.110

5. Jurisdiction of the Seabed Disputes Chamber (ARTS 187, 188 AND 288)  3.116

A. Overview  3.116

B. Categories of disputes under article 187 of the Convention  3.120

(a) ‘Disputes between States Parties concerning the interpretation or application of this Part and the Annexes relating thereto’ (art. 187, para. (a))  3.121

(b) ‘Disputes between a State Party and the Authority’ (art. 187, para. (b))  3.123

(c) ‘Disputes between parties to a contract, being States Parties, the Authority or the Enterprise, state enterprises and natural or juridical persons referred to in article 153, paragraph 2(b)’ (art. 187, para. (c))  3.124

(d) ‘Disputes between the Authority and a prospective contractor’ (art. 187, para. 1(d))  3.126

(e) ‘Disputes between the Authority and a State Party, a state enterprise or a natural or juridical person sponsored by a State Party as provided for in article 153, paragraph 2(b), where it is alleged that the Authority has incurred liability as provided in Annex III, article 22’ (art. 187, para. 1(e))  3.127

(f) ‘Any other disputes for which the jurisdiction of the Chamber is specifically provided in this Convention’ (art. 187, para. (f))  3.128

6. Prompt release proceedings (art. 292 of THE CONVENTION)  3.129

A. Definition and objective  3.129

B. Conditions  3.131   

C. Judgment  3.138

7. Request for provisional measures pending the constitution of an arbitral tribunal (art. 290, para. 5)  3.139

A. Definition and objective  3.139

B. Conditions  3.144

(a) Prima facie jurisdiction  3.144

(b) Plausibility of rights  3.145

(c) Preservation of rights in dispute or prevention of serious harm to the marine environment  3.147

(d) Urgency  3.154

(e) ‘Undue burden’  3.156

C. Order  3.157

8. Contentious jurisdiction pursuant to agreements other than the Convention  3.159

9. Issues of admissibility in contentious proceedings  3.163

A. Legal interest and proceedings before the Tribunal  3.164

B. Overview of objections to admissibility in the Tribunal’s jurisprudence  3.175

(a) Object of the application  3.175

(b) Non-compliance with the rule of exhaustion of local remedies  3.181

(i) Cases on the merits  3.183

(ii) Urgent proceedings  3.187

(c) Lack of locus standi  3.190

(i) Registration of the vessel and status of the flag State 3.190

(ii) Genuine link  3.195

(iii) Nationality of claims  3.198

(d) Conduct of applicant  3.200

10. Advisory jurisdiction  3.203

A. Advisory proceedings before the Seabed Disputes Chamber  3.204

B. Advisory proceedings before the Tribunal  3.209

(a) Legal basis of the Tribunal's advisory jurisdiction  3.210

(b) Scope of the Tribunal's advisory jurisdiction  3.217

(c) Discretionary power  3.225

(d) Prerequisites  3.226   

(i) ‘… international agreement’  3.227

(ii) ‘… body authorized’  3.230

(iii) ‘… legal question’  3.232

11. Applicable law  3.234


1. Basic texts  4.003

2. Proceedings before the Tribunal  4.012

A. Pre-judicial phase  4.012

B. Institution of proceedings  4.025

(a) Special agreement  4.026

(b) Application  4.032

(i) Claims  4.035

(ii) Agent  4.037

(iii) Signature  4.041

(iv) Annexes and language  4.042

(v) Method of transmission  4.043

(vi) Correction  4.044

C. Communication of information  4.045

D. Organization of the case  4.050

E. Joinder of proceedings  4.056

F. Written proceedings  4.059

(a) Written pleadings  4.059

(b) Closure of written proceedings and submission of new documents  4.070

(c) Communication of pleadings  4.073

G. Initial deliberations  4.077

H. Oral proceedings  4.078

(a) Representation of parties  4.079

(b) Opening of the oral proceedings  4.084

(c) Information to be provided by the parties  4.087

(d) Length of the hearing and order of presentations  4.089

(e) Hearing open to the public  4.095

(f) Questions to the parties  4.097

(g) Interpretation and minutes of the hearing  4.101

(h) Final submissions and closure of the oral proceedings  4.106

I. Evidence  4.112

(a) Burden of proof  4.113

(b) Experts and witnesses  4.118

(c) Other forms of evidence  4.129

(d) Information provided by intergovernmental organizations  4.134

(e) Assessment of evidence  4.135

J. Deliberations and voting  4.146

(a) Participation and quorum  4.146

(b) Confidentiality  4.148

(c) Initial deliberations  4.150

(d) Work of the Drafting Committee and deliberations on the draft judgment  4.155

(e) Voting  4.162

3. Incidental proceedings  4.165

A. Provisional measures  4.165

(a) Request  4.169

(b) Proceedings  4.172

(c) Order  4.179

B. Preliminary proceedings  4.181

(a) Request  4.182

(b) Proceedings  4.186

(c) Judgment  4.187

C. Preliminary objections  4.189   

(a) Request  4.194

(b) Proceedings  4.197

(c) Judgment  4.199

D. Counter-claims  4.203

E. Intervention  4.209

(a) Application for permission to intervene under article 31 of the Statute  4.213

(b) Declaration of intervention under article 32 of the Statute  4.221

(c) Effects of intervention on the intervening entity  4.228

F. Discontinuance  4.230

4. Prompt release proceedings  4.236

A. Application  4.238

B. Proceedings  4.243

C. Judgment and posting of the bond or financial security  4.248

5. Proceedings before special chambers referred to in article 15 of the Statute  4.256

6. Contentious proceedings before the Seabed Disputes Chamber  4.264

A. Proceedings for the suspension of the exercise of rights and privileges of a member of the International Seabed Authority (art. 122 of the Rules)  4.266

B. Preliminary ruling procedure (art. 123 of the Rules)  4.267

C. Rules applicable to disputes other than ‘exclusively between States Parties and between States Parties and the Authority' (arts 117–121 of the Rules)  4.269

(a) Proceedings instituted by application (arts 117–119 of the Rules)  4.271

(b) Proceedings instituted by the notification of a special agreement (art. 120 of the Rules)  4.276

(c) Additional written pleadings (art. 121 of the Rules)  4.277

7. Judgments and orders  4.278

A. Essential requirements of a judgment  4.279

B. Publication of judgments and orders  4.282

C. Compliance with decisions of the Tribunal  4.283

D. Interpretation and revision  4.298

(a) Interpretation  4.298

(b) Revision  4.301

(c) Submission of a request for revision or interpretation to the Tribunal or a Tribunal's chamber  4.307

8. Advisory proceedings  4.308

A. Advisory proceedings before the Seabed Disputes Chamber  4.308

(a) Applicable procedural law  4.310

(b) Request  4.312

(c) Proceedings  4.315

(d) Advisory opinion  4.324

B. Advisory proceedings before the Tribunal  4.327

(a) Applicable procedural law  4.328

(b) Request  4.329

(c) Proceedings  4.333

9. NGOs and proceedings before the Tribunal  4.337

A. NGOs as parties to proceedings  4.338

B. Indirect participation of NGOs in proceedings before the Tribunal  4.341

C. Amicus curiae  4.342

10. Costs of proceedings before the Tribunal  4.347

A. Costs of proceedings for States Parties to the Convention  4.347

B. Expenses incurred by entities other than States Parties  4.350

C. Judicial costs  4.352

D. ITLOS Trust Fund  4.355


1. Judicial practice  5.003

A. Comity among international courts and tribunals  5.003

B. Inherent functions and inherent powers  5.009

C. A creative use of provisional measures  5.011

D. Delimitation of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles  5.016

E. Advisory jurisdiction of the Tribunal  5.018

F. ‘Justice delayed, justice denied’  5.020

2. Sources of law  5.023

A. Customary law  5.024

(a) Identification of rules of customary law  5.024   

(b) Precautionary approach or principle  5.025

B. Judicial decisions  5.029

C. Agreements  5.033

3. Human rights  5.038

A. Considerations of humanity  5.039

B. Due process of law  5.043

C. Reparation  5.044

4. Status and duties of the flag State  5.045

A. Genuine link  5.045

B. Obligations of the flag State  5.048

C. Flag State’s protection  5.051

(a) Rule of exhaustion of local remedies  5.052

(b) Nationality of claims principle  5.056

(c) Functional protection  5.060

5. Bunkering activities  5.061

6. Protection of the marine environment  5.064

A. The effective character of general obligations  5.064

B. Due diligence obligation and obligation to ensure  5.067

C. Protection of procedural rights in environmental cases  5.070

D. Environment as common interest  5.071

7. State responsibility  5.073