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Hirono, Murkowski, Kaine Reintroduce Resolution Calling on U.S. Senate to Ratify UN Convention on the Law of the Sea

~ UNCLOS is the globally recognized framework for dealing with all matters relating to the law of the sea ~

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, on the 29th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) entering into force, U.S. Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced a resolution calling on the U.S. Senate to ratify UNCLOS. UNCLOS, which has been ratified by 168 nations and the European Union, details the rights and responsibilities of countries regarding the world’s oceans, including guidelines for businesses and the management of marine natural resources, and provides a legal framework to protect those rights while avoiding conflict.

“More than twenty years after UNCLOS took effect, the U.S. is one of just a handful of signatories that has not ratified it, preventing us from engaging in important international conversations about our oceans and seas,” said Senator Hirono. “This long overdue step would help strengthen our national security, expand oceanic access for maritime industries, and support efforts to preserve the environmental health of our oceans. Ratifying UNCLOS enables the U.S. to participate in the decision making process regarding our planet’s oceans and seas.”

“The longer we sit out, the longer the rest of world will continue to set the agenda of maritime domain, from seabed mining to critical subsea infrastructure,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski. “Ratifying the Law of the Sea Treaty will help us keep China’s illegal territorial advances at bay in the South China and is also critical to our national interest in the maritime domain, especially as other Arctic nations look to define their rights to seabed areas beyond their existing exclusive economic zones. It is time for America to not just join the world at the table, but to make sure we are helping to set the rules going forward.”

“Ensuring our seas remain free and open is critical to protecting our economy and our national security. U.S. ratification of UNCLOS would underscore our commitment to freedom of navigation worldwide and the importance of this agreement. As Chairman of the Armed Services’ Subcommittee on Seapower and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, I’ll keep working with my colleagues to make progress on this issue,” said Senator Kaine.

“The United States must be in the conversation when it comes to defining international maritime laws,” said Dr. Cassidy. “While the U.S. dallies, Russia and China are moving into seabed mining. UNCLOS will protect our domestic shipping industry, national security, and economic security by ensuring we are able to compete with existing monopolies at sea.”

“America is an Arctic Nation, but as we fail to assert our rights, we allow rival countries – near-Arctic nations and otherwise – to seize opportunities in our maritime territory,” said Arctic Caucus Co-Chair Senator Angus King (I-ME). “Signing on to the United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea would give us our rightful seat at the table for international conversations about territorial rights, navigation, environmental protections and economic opportunities – especially in the race for critical minerals that will unlock our technological future. That’s why ever military official I have met with has said it would assist in advancing America’s interests and strengthening our security. The High North offers historical possibilities for America’s future, but we are holding ourselves back by standing still.”

“Sitting on the sidelines of UNCLOS not only undermines our standing to advocate for international freedom of navigation and the protection of our oceans – it also undercuts our ability to protect our own national security and commercial interests in the seas. It is critical that the U.S. ratify this Convention so we can more credibly defend international law of the sea,” said Senator Van Hollen. 

UNCLOS is a comprehensive legal framework governing all uses of the world’s oceans and seas, and their resources. It also allows for further development of specific areas of the law of the sea. It is the globally recognized framework for dealing with all matters relating to the law of the sea, governing areas including, but not limited to, environmental control, marine scientific research, economic and commercial activities, and the settlement of disputes relating to ocean matters.

The treaty was opened for signature on December 10, 1982 and was entered into force on November 16, 1994. The United States signed UNCLOS on July 29, 1994, but the U.S. Senate has not yet voted to ratify the treaty, despite urging from environmental, scientific, labor, and industry organizations. This resolution has been previously introduced by Senators Hirono and Murkowski in the 116th and 117th Congresses.

In addition to Senators Hirono, Murkowski, and Kaine, the resolution is cosponsored by Senators Angus King (I-ME), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

The full text of the resolution is available here.