Home / Navy Life / Leadership / Law of the Sea Convention – What is it? What is the Navy’s Role?
Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert provides testimony with the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr., and a panel of flag officers in support of the Law of the Sea Convention before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter D. Lawlor/Released)

Law of the Sea Convention – What is it? What is the Navy’s Role?

“As the world’s preeminent power, the U.S. Navy will benefit from the support the Law of the Sea Convention provides our operations, especially the broad navigational rights guaranteed on the high seas and inside the exclusive economic zones of other nations.” — Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert provides testimony in support of the Law of the Sea Convention before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter D. Lawlor/Released)


  • As a party to the Convention, the U.S. can best protect the navigational freedoms enshrined in the agreement and exert the level of influence that reflects our status as the world’s foremost maritime power.
  • The Convention is in the national interest of the U.S. military. Specifically, it:
    • Establishes stable maritime zones, including a maximum outer limit for territorial seas.
    • Works against “jurisdictional creep” by preventing coastal nations from expanding their maritime zones.
    • Codifies innocent passage in territorial waters; transit passage through international straits (surface, air and subsurface), including the approaches to those straits; and the archipelagic sea lanes passage rights.
  • For our ships and aircraft, recognizes and preserves the freedom to:
    • Conduct military activities in foreign exclusive economic zones.
    • Conduct military surveys.
    • Approach and visit vessels suspected of engaging in piracy and suspected stateless vessels.
  • Reinforces sovereign immunity of warships, other vessels operated by the government on non-commercial service, and government aircraft.
  • Relying on customary international law as the basis for maritime rights and freedoms is an unwise and unnecessary risk. Our service members put their lives on the line to preserve the rights and freedoms codified in the Convention; they deserve to be on the firmest legal ground possible as they go into harm’s way; they deserve the legal certainty that accrues from treaty-based rights.

Additional Considerations

  • For 30 years, the U.S. Navy has implemented, complied with, and used to our advantage the provisions of the Law of the Sea Convention addressing the traditional uses of the oceans.
  • U.S. Navy officers were instrumental in every step of the ten-year negotiations that resulted in very robust provisions enabling our global mobility to meet national security challenges.
  • We need to capitalize on that success by joining the Convention we depend on every day.

Facts and Figures

  • 161 nations and the European Union are currently parties to the Convention, including the vast majority of our partners and allies.
  • All other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are parties.
  • All other Arctic nations are parties.

Comments

comments

Check Also

Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month 2019: Make the Commitment

By Rear Adm. Philip E. Sobeck Director, 21st Century Sailor, N17, OPNAV Throughout the month …

Leave a Reply