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May 15, 2018

Convention on the Law of the Sea


The Convention on the Law of the Sea provides a comprehensive legal framework that defines rights and duties with respect to the uses of the world’s oceans.  The Convention contains provisions regarding transit passage and other navigational freedoms, protection of the marine environment, maritime jurisdiction and boundaries, resource management rights and establishes a dispute settlement regime. Currently, more than 160 nations are party to the Convention.


The Convention on the Law of the Sea was signed by the on July 29, 1994 and was transmitted to the Senate for consideration on October 7, 1994 (Treaty Doc. 103-39).  Resolutions of advice and consent to ratification have twice been approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – in 2004 and in 2007 – but each time Congress adjourned before the treaty was acted on by the full Senate.

In a treaty priority list for the 111th Congress, the Obama Administration included the Convention among those treaties for which it supports Senate action.  President Obama has publicly urged the Senate to act favorably on U.S. accession to the Convention and specifically noted that it serves the economic and national security interests of the United States.

The American Bar Association strongly supports accession to the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

ABA Advocacy

One-Page Talking Points

ABA Report and Recommendation Supporting U.S. Ratification

ABA Testimony to Senate Foreign Relations Committee (6/14/12)

Letters to President Bush and Senate Leadership (2/27/08)


Myths and Realities on Law of the Sea

Law of the Sea Briefing Book  A comprehensive 128-page document compiled in 2007 by a diverse collection of trade associations, citizens’ groups, and ocean policy scholars.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing (6/14/12)

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing (6/14/12)

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing (5/23/12)

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Report (12/19/07)

Foreign Relations Committee Hearing (9/27/07)

Foreign Relations Committee Hearing (10/4/07)

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Report (3/11/04)

Foreign Relations Committee Hearing (10/14/03)

Foreign Relations Committee Hearing (10/21/03)

Environment and Public Works Committee Hearing(3/23/04)

Armed Services Committee Hearing (4/8/04)

Treaty Transmittal Package

Information and Links

Department of State

Senate Foreign Relations Committee

American Sovereignty Campaign

Center for a New American Security

American Society of International Law

Center for Oceans Law and Policy

Citizens for Global Solutions

Rule of Law Committee for the Oceans

United Nations Treaty Website – includes treaty text