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Law of the Sea




Admissions requirements

Required: Public International Law + either International Environmental Law or International Dispute Settlement (no exceptions will be made)
Recommended: Sovereignty and Statehood


This course is dedicated to the law of the sea which regulates the activities of States and their interactions regarding maritime matters.

This course will start off by briefly highlighting the main landmarks that shaped the history of the law of the sea and will then focus on the contemporary legal regime governing maritime areas which consists in great part of the 1982 United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS). Studying the UNCLOS will allow us to pay close attention to the rules governing the different jurisdictional zones of the ocean, the navigation of ships, the exploitation of living and non-living resources and maritime boundary delimitation.

This course will also cover the status of land-locked and geographically disadvantaged states and will touch upon the role of the Council of the International Seabed Authority (ISA), the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS).

This course will also apportion time to discussing dispute settlement: in doing so, this course will analyse landmark, recent and ongoing disputes pertaining to the law of the sea as a means to identify contemporary legal challenges and as an opportunity look at a specific set of legal issues in greater depth.

This course will not cover ‘maritime’ law which focuses on the relations between entities and individuals regarding maritime transport, insurance, and liability. This course will also limit itself to covering the law of the sea applicable in time of peace.

Course objectives

Students will acquire a working knowledge of prevalent legal concepts under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Students will research the theoretical underpinnings of such concepts.

Students will be able to analyse fact patterns and formulate preliminary assessments regarding the law of the sea. Students will also better seize the dynamics of dispute settlement. As a result, students will be able to strategically assess the practical implications of the law of the sea.

Generally, students will become attuned to the tensions between state sovereignty and international cooperation at play within maritime areas.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

The course will adopt a lecture format while actively encouraging student participation, as well as incorporate educational excursions and guest lectures from practitioners in relevant fields.

In order to avoid scheduling conflicts, excursions and guest lectures that require more than 2 hours may be rescheduled to evenings or Wednesday afternoons (as announced in the course syllabus at the start of the course). Students participating in this course should bear this in mind and schedule their other activities accordingly.

Students should prepare by reading assigned materials for each class, which will be examined by brief in-class tests at the start of each class. Active knowledge is required of the topics covered in mandatory prerequisite courses (which will be tested in the first class).

The topics seen in class need to be well understood as they will form the basis of the final exam which will consist of the application of theoretical knowledge to a practical case study.

Students will need to demonstrate initiative and exercise independent legal thinking abilities as they will be asked to write a policy brief focusing on a topic of their choosing among the topics related to the law of the sea. In writing this brief, students will also develop their synthesizing and team-working skills.


  • Weekly assessment (‘theory checks’) – 30% – Ongoing weeks 1-6

  • Policy brief – 30% – week 7

  • Final exam – 40% – week 8

Every day late (i.e. between 1 and 24 hours) for handing in assignments will result in a deduction of a full letter grade of your mark (e.g. A+ (on time) to B+ (1 day late) to C+ (2 days late) to D+ (3 days late) etc.

Students must complete all assignments and exams. Unless there are extenuating circumstances which have been accepted as such by the course convenor in advance of the deadline of the assignment, not finishing an assessment component will automatically result in an F in the entire course.

If a student is absent for one session (for whichever reason) and therefore misses one of the weekly theory checks, that student will not obtain any points for that assessment and no re-takes will take place.


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

Students are required to buy the following textbook:

The International Law of the Sea
Second edition (Cambridge University Press 2015)
Yoshifumi Tanaka
ISBN: 9781107439672

Additional articles and other readings, insofar as necessary, will be made available electronically via the course website on Blackboard, or, where allowed under copyright laws, via weblinks in the course syllabus.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Course Convenor: Dr. F. Baetens:


Weekly Overview

Week 1: Brief highlights of the main landmarks that shaped the history of the law of the sea; basic Concept of the 1982 United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS): baselines and internal waters, territorial waters, the regime of innocent passage and the contiguous zone.
Week 2: The Exclusive Economic Zone and the Continental Shelf.
Week 3: Jurisprudence regarding the delimitation of maritime zones; the legal regime of the high seas and the management of High Seas fisheries.
Week 4: The Deep-seabed mining regime and the International Area; the Rights of the Land-locked and Geographically Disadvantaged States.
Week 5: Dispute Resolution in the Law of the Sea.
Week 6: Landmark, Recent and Ongoing Disputes Pertaining to the Law of the Sea.
Week 7: Dispute Settlement and Landmark, Recent and Ongoing Disputes Pertaining to the Law of the Sea (Continued) and Review Ahead of Final Exam.

Preparation for first session

Readings will need to be completed prior to the first session and will be indicated in the course syllabus which will be circulated prior to the first session.

Active knowledge is required of the topics covered in mandatory prerequisite courses (which will be tested in the first class).