Celebrating 30 years Freedom of the Seas

Freedom of the Seas - guaranteed by United Nations action 30 years ago
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We all take it for granted, but our ability to sail the seven seas could be compromised by now if it weren't for United Nations actions just 30 years ago this week.

10th December 2012 marked the the thirtieth anniversary of the opening for signature of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).


When the Convention was opened for signature in 1982, it was called a 'constitution for the oceans'.

Like a constitution, it is a firm foundation -- a permanent document providing order, stability, predictability and security -- all based on the rule of law.

The Convention on the Law of the Sea is the legal framework that guides every aspect of our management of the oceans and seas.

It is an acknowledgement that the many challenges and uses of the ocean are interrelated and need to be considered as a whole.

With 320 articles and 9 Annexes, the Convention covers every aspect of the oceans and marine environment and sets out a delicate balance of rights and duties.

Freedom of the Seas:
It also guarantees all seafarers freedom of the seas in international waters. Apart from enshrining the principle of global maritime rules, which are vital to our global industry, UNCLOS establishes the right of all nations to freedom of navigation on the high seas and to the right of innocent passage in territorial waters.

It also deals with delicate matters such as the right of all vessels to use international straits, which is a very sensitive geo-political issue.

Repressing the scourge of piracy:
Importantly, UNCLOS also provides the legal basis that allows UN Member States to repress the scourge of piracy on the high seas, which remains a continuing problem worldwide, not just in waters off the coast of Somalia. Indeed, UNCLOS Articles on piracy have provided the basis for several recent UN Security Council Resolutions, highlighting the continuing importance of the Convention and the need to uphold its principles.

UNCLOS is vital not only for the safe operation of ships, ensuring economic sustainability of world trade but also for the simple right of passage for leisure activities such as sailing.

Next time you think of venturing outside your own territorial waters, spare a thought for one of the great innovations of the United Nations.