Article 82: Payments and Contributions with Respect to the Exploitation of the Continental Shelf Beyond 200 Nautical Miles

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



United Nations, UNCLOS, Ocean Governance


The edition of this new Commentary on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is as timely as it will be welcome to both academics and practitioners working in the fields of the law of the sea and oceans governance. After more than 35 years since the adoption of the Convention, there is an urgent need for an updated evaluation of its provisions and of the practice that has emerged regarding its implementation.

The conclusion of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was a milestone achievement on the part of the international community of States. Their negotia- tions at the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea resulted in a regime for the governance of the oceans which was unprecedented in its scope and comprehensiveness. Quite rightly, the Convention is therefore being called a ‘Constitution for the oceans’. Nevertheless, the Convention cannot and has never been intended to provide an answer to every issue arising in connection with the use of the oceans and their governance. In effect, it is a framework treaty which has proved to be a flexible instrument serving as a solid foundation for the further progressive development of a legal regime for the oceans.

The Convention is a ‘living’ instrument and is subject to an ongoing process of change and adaptation to new challenges. Such development is being achieved through negotiation of new instruments supplementing the regime established by the Convention as well as through interpretive implementation of the Convention. This has been demonstrated by the conclu- sion of two highly important implementing agreements, namely the 1994 Agreement relating to the implementation of Part XI of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1992 and the 1995 Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks. This process may well continue in the future, as evidenced by resolution 69/292 adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 19 June 2015 and concerning the develop- ment of ‘an internationally legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction’.

Progressive development of the legal regime established by the Convention is, however, not limited to the adoption of new legal instruments. It is also accomplished through interpretive implementation of the Convention. Such development may take the form of State practice developing a uniform approach to the implementation of specific provisions of the Convention acquiring general recognition. It may also be fostered by the practice of international institutions competent to administer parts of the Convention’s regime and by the jurisprudence of international courts and tribunals entrusted under the Convention to settle disputes concerning its interpretation or implementation.

Over the years, the three institutions established by the Convention, namely the Interna- tional Seabed Authority, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the Commis- sion on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, through their activities and, in the case of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, through its jurisprudence, have made a substantial contribution, within the areas of their competence, to the progressive develop- ment of the international regime established by the Convention. The role of international judicial bodies is of particular relevance with regard to the many provisions of the Conven- tion which are the result of compromises found during negotiation and which, as a consequence, leave room for ambiguities and differences of understanding. Those provisions in particular require evolutionary interpretation and this role is performed, on many occasions, by international courts and tribunals when adjudicating individual contentious cases or when rendering advisory opinions.