Optimizing UNCLOS 1982 to transform Vietnam into a powerful maritime country

VOV.VN - A seminar themed "Việt Nam – Đất nước nhìn từ biển” (Vietnam - the country seen from the sea) was held recently to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the signing of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and ten years of the enforcement of the Law of the Sea of Vietnam.

The event was co-hosted by the Commission for Information and Education of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) Central Committee and Vietnam National Assembly Television.

At the seminar, the participants affirmed that December 10, 1982 marked an important legal event in the development of international law, with the birth of a legal document which is considered as the Constitution of the Seas and Oceans- the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS).

The UNCLOS 1982 came into force on November 16, 1994. Four decades after its birth, the Convention is still valid. To date 167 countries have joined the Convention, of which 164 are members of the United Nations.

The UNCLOS 1982  laid the foundation for establishing a new international order at sea and balancing the interests of all developed and developing nations. It was the first Convention to define all territorial waters in the world.

The Convention is also seen as the charter for the establishment of all major international organizations on the sea such as the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS).

In particular, the Convention also provides a mechanism for the settlement of maritime disputes.

According to Professor Carl Thayer, an expert from Australia’s New South Wales University, the unique feature of UNCLOS is that it has established a compulsory mechanism for dispute settlement.

Emphasizing that Vietnam is a maritime country, with a coastline of more than 3,260 km,  and 4,000 large and small islands, including Hoang Sa (Paracel) Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos, Associate Professor. Dr. and Ambassador Nguyen Hong Thao,  right after national reunification in 1975, only two years later, Vietnam had dispatched a delegation of officials to attend United Nations conferences on the Law of the Sea and absorb the spirit of the draft document of the UNCLOS 1982.

This has contributed to the fact that on May 12, 1977, Vietnam became the first Southeast Asian nation to issue a declaration on the territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone, and continental shelf.  Then, when the nation promulgated the Law of the Sea in 2012, it had more than 500 legal documents at the central and local levels related to State management of seas and islands, Thao said.

After the UNCLOS 1982 was ratified, Vietnam was one of the first 107 countries to sign and soon carry out ratification procedures.

On June 23, 1994, the National Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam issued a resolution on the ratification of the UNCLOS 1982.

By ratifying the Convention, Vietnam has demonstrated its will to exercise its rights within the limits permitted by the Convention, while taking into account the freedoms of other states.

Regarding the Law of the Sea of Vietnam, the delegates affirmed that becoming a member of the UNCLOS 1982 requires the country to have a separate and comprehensive law on the sea.

In that context, on June 21, 2012, the Law of the Sea of Vietnam was approved by the National Assembly of Vietnam and it took effect from January 1, 2013.

The Law of the Sea of Vietnam is built on the basis of the provisions of UNCLOS and international law. This is viewed as an important milestone in the development of Vietnam's legal system in general, as well as in the process of building and fine-tuning legal regulations related to seas and islands.

During the course of the seminar, the delegates gave their opinions and suggestions for Vietnam to promote the value of the UNCLOS 1982), and the 2012 Law of the Sea of Vietnam in order to realize the goals set by the Eighth Conference of the 12th Party Central Committee on sustainable development of Vietnam's marine economy to 2030, with a vision to 2045.

This is also in line with the Resolution of the 13th National Party Congress, which aims to turn Vietnam into a strong maritime nation by 2030 and a strong maritime nation, with sustainable development, prosperity and security and safety by 2045.

They also emphasized the development of the marine economy, marine tourism closely associated with sustainable protection of the marine environment.

It is essential to clearly identify and invest in key marine economic sectors, and apply the achievements of the 4th Industrial Revolution in developing the marine economy, and protecting national sovereignty at sea, they added.