Resolution Urges Senate to Ratify UN Convention on the Law of the Sea

Three senators from Alaska, Hawaii and Virginia have joined forces in a resolution calling on the U.S. Senate to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Senators Lisa Murkowski, R-AK; Mazie Hirono, D-HI, and Tim Kaine, D-VA, introduced the resolution in the Senate on Tues., May 18. A similar resolution was introduced in the U.S. House last month by Representatives Don Young, R-Alaska and Joe Courtney, D-Connecticut.

UNCLOS, which is already ratified by 166 nations and the European Union, details rights and responsibilities of countries regarding the world’s oceans, including guidelines for businesses and management of marine natural resources.

Sen. Hirono noted that the world currently is facing evolving challenges of those seeking to prevent international freedom of navigation worldwide, including the Strait of Hormuz, the South China Sea, the Arctic and the Black Sea. It is time, she said, for the United States to become party to the UNCLOS, which provides a legal framework to protect the right of free passage through territorial seas.

Murkowski said the treaty provides immense value to the U.S., helping to avoid conflict by resolving issues diplomatically and through litigation rather than relying on customary law and military presence. In the Arctic, she said, the treaty would allow America to resolve territorial disputes of continental shelf claims as more access is now being seen in a region that up to this point in time had been inaccessible.

Kaine said that the Senate’s failure to ratify UNCLOS places the U.S. at a disadvantage when dealing with threats to our national security and commerce, particularly by China in the South China Sea.

The U.S. signed UNCLOS om July 29, 1994, but the Senate has yet to ratify the treaty, despite urging from environmental, scientific, labor and industry organizations.

Senators Hirono and Murkowski, along with Courtney and Young, also called for the Senate to ratify UNCLOS in 2019.