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Advisory Opinion on Responsibility and Liability for International Seabed Mining (ITLOS Case No. 17): International Environmental Law in the Seabed Disputes Chamber

Author(s): Donald Anton

On 1 February 2011, the Seabed Disputes Chamber (“the Chamber”) delivered its first Advisory Opinion. The Opinion provides useful guidance to the international community concerned with the deep seabed. First and foremost, the Chamber accomplished its task to assist the ISA with independent and impartial judicial interpretation of the Convention and related instruments. States that intend to extract valuable resources now know that they must evaluate their legal codes, administrative capacity, and their judicial enforcement mechanisms to determine where they fall short of the standards that the Chamber has identified. For most states it will be necessary to introduce new laws to provide the requisite rules, regulations and procedures. Entities seeking sponsorship will likely wish to work with these governments to develop a workable regime. Other entities, such as those interested in scientific research, other economic uses, and protection of the ocean and seabed resources, will want to assist with this process to ensure that their interests are respected and that developing states are given assistance to develop appropriate laws and enforcement capacity. Finally, the limitations and gaps in the Convention’s liability scheme have now been identified and await the international legal community’s attention.

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