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Law of the Sea




Admission requirements

  • Classes of 2013-2016: Principles of Public International Law. Recommended (but not required) are International Environmental Law and International Dispute Settlement.

Course description

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.

Learning 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 be encouraged to 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.

Mode of instruction

The course will adopt a lecture format while actively encouraging student participation. Students should prepare by reading assigned materials for each class. The topics seen in class need to be well understood as they will form the basis of the final exam (see assessment method below).

Students will be asked to develop their presentation, synthesizing and team-working skills, as they will deliver group presentations before the class (see assessment method below).

Students will also need to demonstrate initiative and exercise independent legal thinking abilities as they will be asked to write an essay (see assessment method below) focusing on a topic of their choosing among the topics related to the law of the sea.

We aim to organize a visit to the National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam as part of the course.


In-class team presentations; teams of two or three students; length of presentations: 10-15 minutes
Weeks 2-7

Essay (2500 words)
Weeks 1-8

Final exam
Week 8

Compulsory textbook

The course will rely on a compilation of articles that will be made available electronically via the course website on Blackboard.

Contact information

Course Convenor: Freya Baetens:
Course Instructor: Alexandre Genest: