NAM highlights the importance of International Seabed Authority

Non-Aligned Movement recognises United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as the primary instrument which defines the rights and responsibilities of States in their use of the world’s oceans, including their general obligations to protect and preserve the marine environment. The Movement stresses upon the importance of the designation by the Convention of the seabed, subsoil and ocean floor beyond national jurisdiction as the common heritage of mankind. In this context, NAM has welcomed the establishment of the International Seabed Authority, to organize, control and administer all activities of the State parties in the area on behalf of the international community and in accordance with the pertinent provisions of the Convention.

The International Seabed Authority is an autonomous international organization established under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 1994 Agreement relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Authority is the organization through which States Parties to the Convention shall, in accordance with the regime for the seabed and ocean floor and subsoil thereof beyond the limits of national jurisdiction (the Area) established in Part XI and the Agreement, organize and control activities in the Area, particularly with a view to administering the resources of the Area. Currently, the International Seabed Authority has more than 165 members. The Headquarters of the International Seabed Authority is located in Kingston, Jamaica.

Three of its main organs have been functioning since its inception in 1994: a policy-making Assembly composed of all States that belong to ISA, a 36-member executive Council that sets specific policies, and a Secretariat composed of staff who carry out the day-to-day activities of information gathering, monitoring and research. The fourth main organ I the Enterprise, empowered to conduct exploration and exploitation of deep-sea minerals on behalf of the international community. Besides these main organs, two permanent subsidiary bodies have been established, composed of members elected in their personal capacity, to deal with specialized tasks: a Legal and Technical Commission and a Finance Committee. The ISA has been developing the “Mining Code,” which is the set of rules, regulations, and procedures to regulate prospecting, exploration, and exploitation of marine minerals in the Area. To date, the Authority has issued Regulations on Prospecting and Exploration for Polymetallic Nodules (adopted on 13 July 2000, updated on 25 July 2013); Regulations on Prospecting and Exploration for Polymetallic Sulphides (adopted on 7 May 2010), and Regulations on Prospecting and Exploration for Cobalt Rich Ferromanganese Crusts (adopted on 27 July 2012). Environmental concerns are also at the core of the obligations of contractors undertaking exploration activities. Each set of the Authority’s current regulations contain an entire part dedicated to the protection and preservation of the marine environment.

The Authority’s Regulations also contain rules relating to pollution emergencies that threaten to significantly harm the marine environment. NAM Member States have been actively involved with the activities of International Seabed Authority. India is one among the top 8-countries/ contractors and is implementing a long–term programme on exploration and utilization of Polymetallic Nodules through Ministry of Earth Sciences. The 23rd session of International Seabed Authority (ISA) concluded on August 18, 2017 at Kingston, Jamaica approved the extension of India’s exclusive rights to explore polymetallic nodules from seabed in Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) by five years. According to a press release issued by Press Information Bureau, India, “These rights are over 75000 sq. km of area in international waters allocated by International Seabed Authority for developmental activities for polymetallic nodules. The estimated polymetallic nodule resource potential is 380 million tonnes, containing 4.7 million tonnes of nickel, 4.29 million tonnes of copper and 0.55 million tonnes of cobalt and 92.59 million tonnes of manganese”.

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