The purpose of this LibGuide is to provide a system of links and sources of information about United Nations organizations and treaties that relate to to maritime matters and the laws of the sea. The United Nations Organization, in its role as an international body that tries to reduce conflicts among nation-states, has been instrumental in establishing bodies that deal with maritime law, both for defining rights of nations with respect to the oceans and seas, and also for defining obligations with respect to issues of the environment and of navigation.
This guide focuses on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and on the International Maritime Organization, the two main areas of concentration on maritime activities within the UN.
The seas and oceans are partly open and partly claimed, and a locus of potential conflict, as nation states try to control resources and access to seas near, or even not so near, their borders. These conflicts threaten to destabilize international relations and world economies in the form of oceanic anarchy. An example is the conflict between China and Japan over uninhabited islands that lie between them.
The UN Convention of the Law of the Sea is not without contention since nation states are continually attempting to protect their interests. For example, the United States asked for major revisions after the original convention had gone through its final revision. Even up to now, the United States Senate has not ratified the treaty for this UN Convention of the Law of the Sea.
The International Maritime Organization works to ensure safety of shipping, of crews, and of the environment. In this sense, it is a more technically oriented organization, helping to set minimum international standards for the shipping industry.
The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea is a major facet of international law that attempts to balance and codify claims by coastal nations along with concepts of a common heritage of oceans and seas. The searcher not only needs specific information on the actual text of the law and Convention of the Sea and some of the details of legal cases and treaty provisions resulting from the convention, but she also needs theoretical background in legal, international relations, and history in order to more fully develop meaningful searches on this subject.
The International Maritime Organization is focused on shipping in international waters with respect to ship safety, efficiency of navigation, and control of pollution from ships. It sponsors several other organization at the technical level, even a university.