The 27th session of the Assembly of the International Seabed Authority (ISA-27) opened on Monday in Kingston, Jamaica. The first day’s deliberations focused on items on the Assembly’s agenda in the morning. In the afternoon, a special session took place, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the adoption and opening for signature of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Highlights of the day include:
- An initial discussion on a proposal by Chile for a new agenda item on issues relating to the triggering of the two-year timeline, which refers to a provision in Annex I, paragraph 15, of the 1994 Agreement relating to the implementation of Part XI of UNCLOS;
- The election of Satyendra Prasad, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Fiji, as Assembly President for the 27th session, with Vice President Olav Myklebust, Norway, serving as Acting President in Prasad’s absence;
- Approval of five requests by organizations for observer status;
- Paying tribute to the memory of Nii Allotey Odunton, who served as ISA Secretary-General from 2009-2016 and passed away on 13 February 2022; and
- The special session, commemorating the 40th anniversary of UNCLOS
In opening statements, ISA Secretary-General Michael Lodge highlighted Jamaica’s Emancipation Day, and expressed hope that, despite challenges related to the conference venue, the intimate setting will facilitate reaching consensus on the issues under discussion.
The Chilean suggestion for a new agenda item on the two-year timeline attracted a lengthy discussion. As paragraph 15 of Annex I of the 1994 Agreement states, “if the Council has not completed the elaboration of the rules, regulations, and procedures relating to exploitation” within two years following the request of a State who intends to apply for approval of a plan of work for exploitation, then the Council “shall nonetheless consider and provisionally approve such plan of work based on the provisions of the Convention and any rules, regulations, and procedures that the Council may have adopted provisionally, or on the basis of the norms contained in the Convention and the terms and principles contained in this Annex as well as the principle of non-discrimination among contractors.” On 25 June 2021, Nauru submitted such a request, in connection with its contractor Nauru Ocean Resources Inc. (NORI).
Some Member States urged addressing what they considered “the elephant in the room,” stressing the need to prepare for future decisions and cautioning that limited Council sessions remain prior to the deadline. Others opposed, arguing that the limited time since the proposal’s submission did not allow proper coordination of national positions and further querying whether the suggestion was in conformity with the Assembly’s rules of procedure. As Acting President Myklebust noted, the issue will first be addressed in the Bureau and will be reverted to the Assembly in due course.
Delegates further discussed the work of the Council during the first two parts of the 27th session held from 21 March-1 April 2022 and 18-29 July 2022 in hybrid format.
ISA27 Council President Tomasz Abramowski, Poland, summarized the Council’s work and Member States focused on necessary future steps.
During the special session commemorating the 40th anniversary of UNCLOS, delegates hailed Jamaica’s role in the development of the Convention and highlighted the double celebration of Emancipation Day on 1 August and Independence Day on 6 August. They further stressed that UNCLOS is the “Constitution for the Ocean” and plays a key role in the global system for peace and security, balancing states’ national interests, and offering ample opportunities for cooperation and peaceful dispute settlement.