Antarctic Law of the Sea Researcher bound for icebreaker expedition

Finnish icebreaker Nordica
Finnish icebreaker Nordica near Hamina, Finland. Photo by Cornelia Klier, Creative Commons

Without the training in Antarctic work through the ANU we would not have been able to get the position.

Last month, Antarctic researcher and PhD candidate Scott Joblin was in Beijing, serving as a rapporteur at the annual Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM).

Next month – as a result of networking at the China conference – he will be in Vancouver, joining an Arctic icebreaker expedition undertaking the North West Passage to Greenland.  

Both have been remarkable opportunities for Scott, whose PhD thesis looks at the legal status of hydrocarbons in the Antarctic and whether or not they are subject to potential exploitation by States under international law. 

A considerable number of States, including Australia, with geographic or research interests in the region, are party to the 1991 Antarctic Environmental Protocol and the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Scott’s research questions whether or not the hydrocarbons of the region – and by extension any type of deep sea minerals – are protected under international law.

“Australia, New Zealand, along with most of the major international States, have signed both agreements.  Aspects of the interaction of these regimes are questionable, and no one has really assessed the possible outcomes,” he said.

“One of the central focusses of my research is to work out whether or not the protections that a lot of people believe to be in place on a normative level, actually hold legal weight.”

In May, the annual Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting was held in Beijing. Scott served the secretariat as one of nine rapporteurs – apolitical consultants with specific expertise in Antarctica – documenting the meeting from the preparatory stage through to the final reports.

Scott Joblin at 2017 ATCM in Beijing

 “People from universities tend to be appointed, as opposed to representatives of States,” he said.

“ANU was the only institution with two rapporteurs – the other being Diane Erceg from the Fenner School of Environment and Society.”

“Without the training in Antarctic work through the ANU we would not have been able to get the position. Everyone who was appointed held at least a Master’s degree in relevant Antarctic fields.”

While there, Scott had the chance to network with people involved in the Arctic 100 Expedition – an internationally-led research expedition aboard the Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica to mark the 100th anniversary of Finland’s independence.

The ship will depart Vancouver, Canada on July 6 and travel through the Northwest Passage to arrive in Nuuk, Greenland on August 1. 

Scott will travel among 70 polar-focused experts, academics, and scientists, drawn from various disciplines throughout the international community, on the fully-funded trip valued at approximately $30,000.

 “I plan to use this opportunity to continue my research into international legal questions regarding ice-covered baselines and the environmental protection of ice-covered waters,” he said.

“Both of these issues are highly pertinent to the Arctic given the noted effects of climate change on the region.” 

“From my perspective, the opportunity to undertake this work in such a setting is unsurpassed, both in terms of the international legal expertise I will be travelling with, and also the opportunities for future collaborative research.”

Updated:  10 August 2015/Responsible Officer:  College General Manager, ANU College of Law/Page Contact:  Law Marketing Team