Via Nathanial Gronwold, it seems that the number of claims before the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf has sharply increased in recent years. The Commission, which is a body of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea, is having trouble keeping up with its workload. But even as more and more countries look to the Commission to adjudicate territorial disputes, the United States risks getting left behind.
Currently, the United States, Canada and Denmark are cooperating in exploring and mapping the subsurface features of the Arctic, gathering scientific data that will likely go into future submissions to the U.N. continental shelf commission.
But the United States is not legally eligible to participate in the process, as Congress has yet to ratify the Law of the Sea. Commission members have in the past said that they would most likely have to ignore a U.S. application if Washington submits one.
This helps explain why the mineral extraction industry in the United States is keen on American ratification of UNCLOS. It also shows why opposition to Senate ratification of the Law of the Sea is counterproductive and not in keeping with America’s best interests. Fortunately, better heads may prevail in this debate.