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International Seabed Authority Ends Historic Session

Makes exploitation regulations and extension of exploration contracts top priority for 2015 session, adopts budget for 2015-2016, elects 17 Council members

The urgent need to begin elaboration of regulations for the exploitation of minerals from the deep seabed Area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction was a central theme at the International Seabed Authority’s twentieth anniversary session in Kingston (14-25 July 2014).

As the inter-governmental body wound up its session Thursday, 24 July, a day earlier than originally scheduled, its Council signaled it wanted formulation of procedures and criteria for applications for extension of exploration contracts as well as exploitation regulations to be given top priority.

 The Council, by a decision adopted on 23 July requested the Authority’s expert body, the Legal and Technical Commission, to, “as a matter of urgency and as its priority” to formulate the draft texts and submit them to the Council at its 2015 session. The draft instruments would be applied in a uniform and non-discriminatory manner and made available in advance of the Council’s next session in 2015. The Commission is scheduled to meet in Kingston in February 2015.

The Authority’s Assembly, at its final meeting on Thursday, 24 July, decided to convene the 21st session of the Authority from 13 to 24 July 2015 in Kingston.

During debate on the proposals in the Council, many delegations expressed support for formulation of the draft texts. A proposal by the Netherlands for the incorporation of environmental management planning in the regulatory framework for mineral exploitation in the Area was welcomed by delegations. The Commission was requested to consider it in the context of its work on the instrument.

Exploration contracts awarded to the pioneer investors in 2001 and 2002 will come to an end in 2016 and 2017. Some of the contractors involved are likely to proceed to exploitation while others might apply for extension of their contracts. There is now a significant increase in the level of interest in deep seabed mining.

 The Legal and Technical Commission (LTC) has already laid the groundwork for the preparation of draft regulations for exploitation in the Area. A stakeholder survey was launched by the Authority’s Secretariat in March 2014, with an input from the Commission, to solicit relevant information for the development of a regulatory framework for the exploitation of minerals in the Area. A draft framework has been prepared by the Secretariat based on a detailed analysis of the 55 responses to the survey.

Summary report of LTC Chairman

 According to a summary report by its Chairman, Russell Howorth (Fiji), the Legal and Technical Commission held two sessions in 2014, from 3 to13 February and from 7 to 16 July, holding 32 formal meetings in total.

 The Commission’s report, (ISBA/20/C/20) covered the following activities of contractors, including; the status of prospecting and of contracts for exploration, annual reports of contractors; the periodic review of implementation of plans of work for exploration for polymetallic nodules; extension of contracts for exploration and implementation of training programmes and allocation of training opportunities.

 Other matters dealt with in the report are applications for approval of plans of work for exploration in the Area, status of implementation of the environmental management plan for the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, conflict of interest of Commission members and the future data management strategy of the Authority.

The report also covered matters referred to the Commission by the Council, such as issues relating to monopolization of activities in the area and the operation of the future Enterprise, the mining arm of the Authority, particularly legal, technical and financial implications for the Authority and for States parties.

During discussions of the report over three meetings, some Council members called upon the contractors to comply fully with their contractual obligations.  The Commission was urged to review and update the template for the annual reports of contractors, and also examine ways to ensure that training opportunities took account of the interests and needs of developing countries, particularly the land-locked and geographically disadvantaged States, as well as small island developing States.

Status of prospecting, exploration contracts

At its meeting on 21 July 2014, the Council approved seven plans of work for exploration in the seabed Area, recommended by the Legal and Technical Commission. It requested the Secretary-General to issue the plans of work in the form of contracts between the International Seabed Authority and each of the applicants respectively.

 During a debate on the status of prospecting, exploration contracts, periodic review and overhead charge, it was noted that as of 24 June 2014, the Authority had concluded 12 contracts for exploration for polymetallic nodules; three for polymetallic sulphides and two for cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts, thus bringing the number of exploration contracts issued by the Authority to 17. Two plans of work approved in 2012 still remain pending for signature of contracts.

There was concern that some contractors had not yet accepted the new standard clauses on overhead charges established by the Assembly last year to cover the costs of administration and supervision of contracts.

Transparency and openness 
 
There was discussion of the issue of “transparency and openness” as an essential element in the Commission’s work and that of the Authority as a whole. It was recommended that the Commission should continue to explore initiatives, including holding open meetings and publishing surveys, particularly on issues of general interest to ensure broad participation.

The Secretariat was commended for its work in developing a global deep seabed database as was the Legal and Technical Commission’s decision to keep the subject of data management on its agenda as a regular item.

Amendments to regulation 21

The Council adopted recommendations of the Commission for amendments to regulation 21 of the Regulations on Prospecting and Exploration for Polymetallic Sulphides in the Area (ISBA/20/C/22). In another action, the Council, with a view to aligning the regulation on monopolization embodied in the Regulation on Nodules with that of the Regulations on Sulphides and on Crusts, adopted a decision (ISBA/20/C/23) by which regulation 21 of the Regulations on Prospecting and Exploration for Polymetallic Nodules in the Area was amended by the insertion of a new paragraph immediately following paragraph 6 and renumber of paragraphs 7 to 11 of the Regulations accordingly.  The Assembly later approved the amendments.

Report of Finance Committee

The Assembly on the recommendations of the Committee and the Council approved a budget of US$15,743,143 for the Authority’s operations for the financial period 2015-2016 and related matters (ISBA/20/A/L.2). The Secretary-General was authorized to establish the scale of assessments for 2015 and 2016 on the basis of that used for the regular budget of the expenses of the United Nations for 2013-2014 respectively. It would take into account that the ceiling assessment rate would be 22 per cent and the floor rate 0.01 per cent.

 Acting on recommendations of the Council, the Assembly urged the Authority’s members to pay their assessed contributions to the budget on time and in full. The Assembly appealed to those in arrears to pay their outstanding contributions from previous years as soon as possible.

The Assembly requested the Secretary-General to provide, in future, a complete narrative in support of budget proposals, as well as a breakdown of projected costs in respect of large items of expenditure or those in which a significant variance in relations to the previous budget was proposed. The Secretary-General was also to ensure that the budget was in line with the priorities set by the Council and the Assembly.

Secretary-General’s report

The annual report of the Secretary-General, Nii Allotey Odunton (Ghana) (ISBA/20/A/2), was the focus of a two-day debate in the Assembly. The report, submitted under article 166 paragraph 4 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, provided information on the work of the Authority from July 2013 to June 2014. It covered, among others, administrative and financial matters, the Authority’s relations with the host Government, Jamaica, and status of contracts for exploration in the Area.

Presenting the report to the Assembly on 23 July, Mr. Odunton highlighted the challenge of managing the increasing workload of the Authority as it moved towards elaborating exploitation regulations and the need for standardized data on the living resources of the seabed Area.

The Secretary-General noted that with seven new contracts having been approved at the session, bringing the total number of contracts to 26, the workload of the Legal and Technical Commission would increase significantly. He suggested that the Authority should consider how the Commission’s work would be managed in the future.

The report observed that the Authority had achieved significant milestones since 2000. It had “cemented its place” as the central body to organize and control activities in the seabed Area beyond national jurisdiction. It had adopted and implemented three sets of regulations for exploration for polymetallic nodules, polymetallic sulphides, and cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts, and had also entered into contracts for exploration for all three different resources.

Relationship with the Host Government

The report said the Secretariat had continued to actively seek redress from the Government of Jamaica, the host country, to the long-standing problems of the poor condition of the Authority’s headquarters building as previously reported by the Secretary-General. Whilst the Government had addressed some of those issues, the problem of the inconsistent water supply and the poor performance of the air-conditioning units remained unresolved. Additionally, in spite of the efforts made by the Jamaica Conference Centre to improve the audio system there were still interruptions experienced during the meetings of the Legal and Technical Commission in February 2014.
           
The relationship between the Authority and the host Government is governed by a Headquarters Agreement, which entered into force on 26 August 1999, and a supplementary agreement relating to the occupation of the headquarters of the Authority, which entered into force on 2 June 2004.

Financial Matters

The Secretary-General pointed out that the overhead charge of $47,000 to be payable annually by contractors to cover the administration and supervision of contracts and review of their annual reports, would lead to a significant decrease (approximately $1.8 million) in the amount of the budget that would have to be financed by member States.
 
As at 30 April 2014, 68.7 per cent of the value of contributions to the 2014 budget due from member States and the European Community had been received from 29.7 per cent of the Authority’s membership. Contributions outstanding from member States for prior periods (1998-2013) amounted to US$ 283,731. As at 30 April 2014, 43 members of the Authority were in arrears for a period of two years or more, and would consequently have no vote in accordance with article 184 of the Convention and rule 80 of the rules of procedure of the Assembly.  The Secretary General urged all members in arrears to take the necessary steps to pay their contributions.

Also as at the same date, the balance of the Authority’s Working Capital Fund stood at US$ 556,522 against an approved level of US$ 560,000.

Voluntary Trust Fund

The Voluntary Trust Fund (VTF) for the participation in the work of the Finance Committee and the Legal and Technical Commission by members from developing countries was established in 2002. The total amount paid out of the Fund as at 22 July 2014, was US$527,126. The balance of the Fund as at the same date stood at $237,101.

The Fund is made up of voluntary contributions from members of the Authority and others. Over the life of the Fund, contributions totalling US$562,924 have been paid into it. The most recent contributions to the fund were made by Japan ($44,760) in September 2013, Norway ($99,224.39) in June 2014 and China ($20,000) in July 2014.

Endowment Fund for Marine Scientific Research in the Area

The Endowment Fund for Marine Scientific Research in the Area was established by the Assembly in 2006 (ISBA/12/A/11). The Endowment Fund promotes and encourages the conduct of marine scientific research in the seabed Area for the benefit of mankind as a whole, in particular by supporting the participation of qualified scientists and technical personnel from developing countries in marine scientific research programmes.

Since the Authority’s nineteenth session, two awards have been made from the Fund. The first award of $30,000 was made to the Rhodes Academy to help fund a number of fellowships for students from developing countries and to expand the Academy’s training programmes to cover issues relating to deep seabed marine science. As at 31 May 2014, 59 scientists or government officials from developing countries have been beneficiaries of financial support from the Endowment Fund. 

The Secretary-General described the Endowment Fund as a very useful mechanism of the Authority. He outlined a strategy being used to increase its capital. He said that after an application for a plan of work had been processed, the Secretariat would inform the applicant about the cost and request that any remaining balance be applied to the Fund.

As at 30 April 2014, the capital of the fund stood at $3,417,038, and a total of $428,932 had been disbursed form the interest accrued on the capital.
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Library, publications and website

The Satya N. Nandan Library, named after the Authority’s first Secretary-General, is the main information resource for the Secretariat and for member States and other individuals and institutions looking for specialist information on seabed resources and legal and political issues relating to the deep sea. The Library manages the Authority’s specialized collection of reference and research materials which focused on matters relating to the law of the sea, ocean affairs and deep sea mining

The most recent major upgrade to the facilities of the library was done during the renovation of the headquarters in 1999. It was anticipated that by July 2014, the public access area of the library would have been updated with a new reception area and improved reading areas.

At the end of 2013, the Authority launched a new publications strategy which uses a combination of print-on-demand and electronic publishing technology to reduce costs through streamlining publishing practices.

The Authority’s website was currently being upgraded and redeveloped to better manage and disseminate the various aspects of its work to member States, its various organs and the public at large. The restructured website will be compatible with cross-browser platforms and will also be accessible on mobile devices. During the reporting period, the ICT unit developed and deployed an extranet accessible to members of the Legal and Technical Commission which allowed secure collaboration among members. At the Commission’s request, an electronic log was also developed to record the submission of documents and communications by contractors to facilitate inventory, search and production of various reports.

Status of contracts for exploration in the Area

As at 19 May 2014, 16 exploration contracts were in force, covering approximately 900,000 kilometres of the seafloor in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. Twelve contracts cover exploration for polymetallic nodules, two for polymetallic sulphides and two for cobalt-rich crusts.

The Secretary-General noted that with seven new contracts having been approved at this session, taking the total number contracts to 26, the workload of the Commission would increase significantly. He estimated that the time needed just to review the annual reports of all the contractors would be at least 13 days, more time than was currently allocated to the Commission to complete its entire agenda for the year. He suggested that the Authority should begin to consider how the work would be managed in the future.

Election to the Council
 
 The Assembly, in an uncontested election, renewed almost half the membership of the Authority’s 36-member Council, for a four-year term from 2015 through 2018. 

The Council is composed of five groups of States members of the Authority, four of which have special interests in aspects of seabed mining. The fifth ensures equitable geographical balance in the Council as a whole.

 Those elected in accordance with the Convention on the Law of the Sea and Assembly decisions, are:

Group A:   Italy and Russian Federation. (Italy would relinquish its seat in Group A in favour of the United States if the latter became a member of the Authority; this does not prejudice the position of any country with respect to any intervening election to the Council).

Group B:   France, Germany and Republic of Korea. (Germany was re-elected for a period of four years (2015-2018), on the understanding that Belgium will occupy the seat in Group B for the year 2016).

Group C:  Australia and Chile.   (Australia was re-elected for a period of four years (2015-2018), on the understanding that in 2017 it will relinquish its seat in Group C to Indonesia. Australia will be a member of Group E in 2017. Chile was re-elected for a period of four years (2015-2018), on the understanding that in 2018 it will relinquish its seat in Group C to Indonesia. Chile will be a member of Group E in 2018).    

Group D:   Fiji, Jamaica and Lesotho.

Group E:  Ghana, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Singapore and Tonga. (Indonesia was re-elected to the Council for a period of four years (2015-2018) on the understanding that in 2017 it will relinquish its seat in Group E to Australia and will occupy the seat in Group C relinquished by Australia. In 2018 Indonesia will relinquish its seat in Group E to Chile and will occupy the seat in Group C relinquished by Chile).     

Other Elections

Antonio Francisco Da Costa e Silva Neto, Brazil’s Ambassador to Jamaica, was elected president of the Assembly for the twentieth session.

Four vice-presidents elected are: China, (Asian Group), France (Western European and Others Group), Nigeria, (African Group) and Russian Federation (Eastern European Group).

Nicola Smith (United Kingdom) was elected as a new member of the Finance Committee to replace her compatriot Chris Whomersley, who resigned on 6 June 2014. She will serve the remainder of his term which ends on 31 December 2016. (ISBA/20/A/4)
    
 In another action, the Assembly granted observer status to the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, a foundation incorporated in the Netherlands, whose objective is protecting and preserving the marine environment, including living marine resources and marine biodiversity. .

 The Council elected Tommo Monthe, Cameroon Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, as its president for this year’s session.

The four vice-presidents of the Council are Argentina (Latin American and Caribbean States), Bangladesh (Asian Group), Czech Republic (Eastern European Group) and the Netherlands (Western European and Others Group).

The Council also elected three new members to the Legal and Technical Commission (LTC).  Carlos Roberto Leite (Brazil), Juan Pablo Paniego (Argentina) and Michelle Walker (Jamaica) will serve the remainder of the five-year term of their compatriots who have resigned. Their term will end on 31 December 2016. (ISBA/20/C/2; ISBA/20/C/3; ISBA/20/C/8).

Special Commemorative Session

An all-day session on 22 July was used to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the establishment of the International Seabed Authority. An impressive list of speakers chronicled the transformation of the organisation, from its creation in 1994 to the present.

The President of the Assembly, Antonio Francisco Da Costa e Silva Neto (Brazil) opened the commemorative session and introduced the Secretary-General of the Authority, Nii A. Odunton (Ghana) who highlighted some next steps for the Authority, including building baseline environmental data and standardizing taxonomies for lesser known fauna and species. The Prime Minister of host country, Jamaica, the Most Honourable Portia Simpson Miller, welcomed the delegates. A statement from Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, was delivered by Stephen Mathias, Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs.

The keynote speaker, Tommy Koh, Ambassador-at-Large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore, said the Authority must be more visible so that the world may understand its important mission.

Statements were made by Satya N. Nandan, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for the Law of the Sea and former Secretary-General of the ISA (1996-2008); Judge José Luis Jesus, International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, and Chairman, Preparatory Commission for the ISA (1987-1994); Prof. Hasjim Djalal, former member of the Indonesian delegation to the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (1973-1982), and first President of the Assembly of the International Seabed Authority (1996); Judge Vladimir Golitsyn, President of the Seabed Disputes Chamber (presentation on behalf of the President of the Tribunal); Mumba Kapumpa, Ambassador of Zambia to South Korea, and Baïdy Diène, President if the Authority’s Council (2004) and member of the Legal and Technical Commission (2002-2011). The chair of each regional group in the Assembly and individual delegations also made statements.

Membership and Attendance

The ISA membership consists of all parties to the United National Convention on the Law of the Sea.  The members are listed below, with an asterisk (*) marking those which participated in the session.

The list of members of the Authority is as follows:

Albania, Algeria, Angola, *Antigua and Barbuda, *Argentina, Armenia, *Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, *Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, *Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, *Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, *Cameroon, *Canada, Cape Verde, Chad, *Chile, *China, Comoros, Congo, *Cook Islands, Costa Rica, *Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, *Cuba, Cyprus, *Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, *Dominican Republic, *Ecuador, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, *European Union, *Fiji, *Finland, *France, *Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, *Germany, *Ghana, *Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, *Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, *Guyana, Haiti, *Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, *India, *Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, *Italy, *Jamaica, *Japan, Jordan, *Kenya, *Kiribati, *Kuwait, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, *Lesotho, Liberia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, *Mexico, *Micronesia (Federated States of), Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, *Morocco, *Mozambique, *Myanmar, *Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, *Netherlands, *New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger,*Nigeria, Niue, *Norway, *Oman, Pakistan, Palau, *Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, *Philippines, Poland, *Portugal, *Qatar, *Republic of Korea, Republic of Serbia, Romania, *Russian Federation, *Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, *Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, *Saudi Arabia, *Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, *Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, *South Africa, *Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor Leste, Togo, *Tonga, *Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Tuvalu, *Uganda, Ukraine, *United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, *Vanuatu, *Vietnam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

 

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Seabed Authority Concludes Twentieth Anniversary Session; Assembly Elects 17 Council Members

The historic twentieth session of the International Seabed Authority ended in Kingston this afternoon after its Assembly completed debate on the Secretary-General’s annual report and acted on five decisions including the Authority’s budget for the 2015-2016 biennium. The Assembly set 13-24 July 2015 as the date for the Authority’s next session.

The 166-member Assembly also elected 17 members to fill vacancies in the Authority’s Council for a four-year period, beginning 1 January 2015 (ISBA/ 20/A/L.6* ).

The Assembly approved amendments to regulation 21of two regulations, one on Prospecting and Exploration for Polymetallic Sulphides (ISBA/20/A/L.3), and the other for Polymetallic Nodules (ISBA/20/A/L.4).

In other action, the Assembly approved the report of the Credentials Committee (ISBA/20/A/6), which was presented by its Chair, Godelieve Van den Bergh (Belgium). She reported that of the Authority’s 166 members, the credentials of 67 were received by the Secretariat. The Credentials Committee comprised Belgium, Indonesia, Kenya, Myanmar, Panama, Russian Federation, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United Kingdom.

The Assembly President Antonio Francisco Da Costa E Silva Neto (Brazil) then gave the floor to the vice-Chairman of the Finance Committee, Duncan Muhumuza Laki (Uganda) to introduce the report and recommendations of the Finance Committee.

Acting on the recommendation of its Council, the Authority adopted the budget of the Authority for the financial period 2015-2016 in the amount of $15,743,143. The 12-paragraph decision which related to the Authority’s budget (ISBA/20/A/L.2) included three paragraphs that were added by the Council upon its adoption of the recommendations of the Finance Committee. The added paragraphs were:

7. Requests the Secretary-General, in future budget proposals, to provide a complete narrative in support of the proposed budget requests, as well as a breakdown of projected costs in respect of large items of expenditure or those in which a significant variance in relation to the previous budget is proposed;

8. Also requests the Secretary-General to ensure that the budget is in line with the priorities set by the Council and the Assembly, in particular with the need to develop the exploitation code, and to make available all relevant documents used to prepare the reports of the Finance Committee;

12. Expresses appreciation to those members of the Authority who have made voluntary contributions to the Voluntary Trust Fund and Endowment Fund for Marine Scientific Research in the Area.

Election of Council Members

 The Council is composed of five groups of States members of the Authority, four of which have special interests in aspects of seabed mining. The fifth ensures equitable geographical balance in the Council as a whole.

 Those elected this afternoon to serve on the 36-member Council for the period 2015 to 2018, in accordance with the Convention on the Law of the Sea and Assembly decisions, are:

Group A:   Italy and Russian Federation (Italy would relinquish its seat in Group A in favour of the United States if it became a member of the Authority; this does not prejudice the position of any country with respect to any intervening election to the Council).

Group B:   France, Germany and Republic of Korea (Germany was re-elected for a period of four years (2015-2018), on the understanding that Belgium will occupy the seat in Group B for the year 2016).

Group C:  Australia and Chile   (Australia was re-elected for a period of four years (2015-2018), on the understanding that in 2017 it will relinquish its seat in Group C to Indonesia. Australia will be a member of Group E in 2017. Chile is re-elected for a period of four years (2015-2018), on the understanding that in 2018 it will relinquish its seat in Group C to Indonesia. Chile will be a member of Group E in 2018).    

Group D:   Fiji, Jamaica and Lesotho.

Group E:  Ghana, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Singapore and Tonga (Indonesia was re-elected to the Council for a period of four years (2015-2018) on the understanding that in 2017 it will relinquish its seat in Group E to Australia and will occupy the seat in Group C relinquished by Australia, and in 2018 Indonesia will relinquish its seat in Group E to Chile and will occupy the seat in Group C relinquished by Chile).     

Debate on Secretary-General’s report

Earlier, the Assembly at its morning meeting concluded its debate on the report of the Secretary-General, Nii Allotey Odunton (Ghana) which reviewed the inter-governmental body’s activities for the past year and its future work programme.

The Netherland’s call for a multi-year work plan for the adoption of regulations for exploitation of mineral resources of the deep seabed was echoed by Brazil, New Zealand, Australia, and Jamaica. Delegations felt that an incremental approach to the important task of formulation those regulations would not be efficient.

Regarding overhead charges for the administration and supervision of exploration contracts, Brazil suggested an approach to determining reasons why some contractors had not agreed to signing the amended contract.

Responding, the Secretary-General said the work plan would be developed in collaboration with the Legal and Technical Commission to include the projected number of meetings of the Commission and Council and the number of workshops to be held. He said the work plan would be completed in time for the 2015 session. On the issue of fees, Mr. Odunton said that would be a matter for the Commission to consider when contract extensions were discussed with contractors.

Other matters

Under other matters, Tonga announced that it would contribute $1,000 to the Endowment Fund for Marine Scientific Research in the Area.

A question related to reporting relationship of the president of the Council and the Assembly was raised. Brazil, in its interpretation of Article 162, paragraph 2 (h) of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, felt that a report by the Council’s president should be included as an agenda item of the Assembly. The representative of the Netherlands, supporting Brazil, said it would be useful to have such a document for discussion. Trinidad and Tobago said it shared Brazil’s interpretation of the relevant article.

Jamaica thanked delegates for their expressions of appreciation towards the host country and its people, and promised to address any issue concerning the facilities which housed the Authority’s secretariat.

 


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Seabed Assembly Completes Debate of Annual Report

The Assembly of the International Seabed Authority yesterday (24 July) concluded its consideration of the Secretary-General’s annual report in Kingston this morning hearing comments from twelve delegations and three observers on many aspects of its topics.

Secretary-General Nii Allotey Odunton (Ghana), presented the report which covers the work of the Authority since the last session, to the Assembly yesterday.  It was the highlight of the 166-member body’s agenda during its twentieth anniversary session.

France, Italy and Jamaica underscored the importance of formulating draft procedures for the extension of exploration contracts to ensure effective preservation of the marine environment. Jamaica said consideration should be given to the number of times a contract could be extended for a five-year period. (The Council of the Authority has requested the Legal and Technical Commission to urgently formulate procedures and criteria for the extension of exploration contracts.)

Responding to comments made during the two-day discussion of his report, the Secretary-General referred to planned series of taxonomic exchange workshops on the megafauna, macrofauna and meiofauna in the contract areas.  Another workshop will assist contractors to prepare estimates of mineable areas within exploration areas, he said.

Several delegations raised the matter of the periodic review which the Assembly was required to undertake every five years under Article 154 of the Convention. Kenya made an urgent call for the review to be carried out, given the imminent approach of commercial mining in the Area. Brazil agreed that the review could not be postponed and said that the Assembly should prepare the terms of reference for the matter to be approached in a structured, systematic manner. The United Kingdom endorsed the idea of a structured approach. Germany also saw merit in undertaking the review, but not to the detriment of the other more urgent matters before the Authority at this time.  (This periodic review is a systematic assessment of the manner in which the international regime of the Area established under the Convention has operated in practice). 

Cuba, Italy, Spain and Vanuatu all shared the view that developing regulations for the exploitation of deep seabed minerals should be a priority task on the Authority’s agenda. Cook Islands said the exploitation code would “lead us all into the next exciting phase of the work of the Authority.”

Capacity development and sensitization seminars

On capacity development, training and outreach, South Africa welcomed the planned workshop to consider the application of a resource classification system for polymetallic nodules deposits to be held in India later this year. Kenya noted several training opportunities to be provided by contractors as part of their obligation for exploration in the Area and said it looked forward to participating in these programmes.
 
France joined the call made yesterday by other delegations for more sensitization sessions to be held to build awareness of the Authority’s work. The representative of Mexico said that the seminar held in his country last November had been useful and informative. He added that his government was considering making an application for a plan of work for exploration activities in the very near future and would keep the secretariat informed on its progress.

Uganda hoped that steps would be taken towards the establishment of a museum at the Authority’s headquarters, as proposed by the Secretary-General. The representative said his delegation looked forward to hearing the concept paper from the Secretary-General on the matter at the next session. He noted that Japan had promised to donate an exhibit and encouraged other contractors to do likewise.

The upgrading of the Authority’s website and the launch of a mobile application for use on tablets and mobile devices were welcomed by a number of delegations. France said the upgraded system would increase the visibility of the Authority. The Philippines said that members of the Legal and Technical Commission would now be able to review contractors’ annual reports and applications for plans of work ahead of their meetings.

Members cited the protection of the marine environment as an ongoing priority for the Authority. Kiribati called for the speedy implementation of environmental management plan in the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone.

Several members welcomed Niger as the most recent member State to become party to the Convention, and joined the Secretary-General’s call for members who had not yet ratified the 1994 Agreement to do so in the near future. Brazil suggested that members should make efforts within their regional groups to encourage such States to become fully fledged members.

Secretary-General’s response

In his response to the comments from members, the Secretary-General spoke first about the proposed museum of the Authority. He expressed his appreciation to Japan for its promised donation of an exhibit and assured the representative that the gift would be appropriately displayed in the offices of the Authority until it took up its rightful place in the museum in the future. The Secretary-General said he would prepare a concept paper outlining the objectives of the museum as requested by the Council, to be presented at the next session in time for its consideration for the 2017-2018 budget.

The Secretary-General thanked the representative of France for his suggestion about advocating for topics on the law of the sea to be included in the curriculum at international law schools. He said the secretariat would contact various institutions and report back to the members at the next session.

With regard to sensitization seminars, the Secretary-General said that the secretariat had already received correspondence from several States requesting seminars in their countries. He said the secretariat aimed to conduct at least one seminar each year, always taking into account the goal of regional participation.

Two workshops were planned for the current year. The first would take place in India to consider the application of a resource classification system for polymetallic nodules. The workshop would be held in conjunction with mineral classification experts, scientists and engineers, and will assist contractors to estimate mineable areas within their exploration areas.

The Secretary-General noted that at a meeting between the Authority and contractors in January 2012, all contractors agreed that standardization of megafauna, macrofauna and meiofauna was required as a part of environmental baseline data. They acknowledged they would benefit from assistance and training from expert taxonomists.  This year, a workshop was planned on macrofauna.  The Secretary-General said as a result of the workshops, the Legal and Technical Commission would have access to valuable information to help its consideration of criteria to be applied to extensions of contracts.

Observers

After the response of the Secretary-General, three observers to the Authority made brief statements. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) aligned itself with those delegations which called for the development of environmental management plans in areas where exploration activities were taking place.  The representative agreed with the need to establish standards in relation to taxonomy and to expand the database of the Authority to make it as useful, scientifically relevant and transparent as possible.  She cited the International network for scientific investigation of deep-sea ecosystems (INDEEP) and Deep-Ocean Stewardship Initiative (DOSI) as two sources which could offer broad expertise on deep sea ecosystems.


The Greenpeace International representative pointed to two gaps in international law and regulation which had to be filled by the time the exploitation regulations were in place. The first was the issue of liability and redress in relation to damage occurring as a result of seabed mining. The other gap to be addressed was the issue of disposal of waste at sea. 

Deep Sea Conservation Coalition pointed out that global consensus had already been achieved on a number of measures governing deep sea fisheries, which might be relevant to the management of deep seabed mining. The representative said that one of the overarching objectives of establishing international standards on the management of activities in the seabed must be the avoidance of damage to the ecosystem. He added that the Authority should aim at consistency with other regulatory bodies.

When it meets this afternoon, the Assembly will elect members to fill vacancies on the 36-member Council, in accordance with article 161 of the Convention, and will adopt the budget of the Authority for the financial period 2015-2016. It is also expected to adopt draft decisions to approve amendments to the regulations on polymetallic nodules and polymetallic sulphides.

 

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Assembly Continues Discussion on Secretary-General Report; Hears Jamaican Minister of Foreign Affairs

The Assembly of the International Seabed Authority resumed discussion on the report of the Secretary-General Nii Allotey Odunton (Ghana) in the afternoon (23 Julyu) which covered the work of the Authority during the period from July 2013 to June 2014.

The afternoon’s session resumed with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica, Senator the Honourable Arnold J. Nicholson, stating that it was fitting that the twentieth anniversary of the Authority coincided with the International year of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), as well as the convening of the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States in Samoa later this year.

Senator Nicholson expressed satisfaction that Jamaica was the host country of an organization which offered support to SIDS to pursue their goals of sustainable development. Article 148 of the Convention, the Minister noted, speaks to the facilitation of the effective participation of developing States in activities in the Area.

Minister Nicholson commended the Authority for its role in advancing training opportunities for qualified candidates of member States, especially developing countries, in various areas of marine research. He said such training served to develop the knowledge base and expertise conducive to the good governance of the seas and its resources.

The number of exploration contracts in force, as well as new applications approved plus those approved but not yet concluded was highlighted by many members of the Assembly as proof of the achievements made by the Authority. Norway said it was a positive development that applications came from new States and corporations, developed and developing States, thus broadening the variety of contractors.  Mozambique said the seven applications for exploration recently approved were clear indication of the critical work of the Authority through its various organs since its establishment.

Singapore said it was pleased with the excellent performance of the Secretariat despite the challenges that it faced. Singapore listed sensitization seminars in Mexico in November last year and in New York in April this year that promoted the work of the Authority, and the launch of its ISA-HQ mobile application on 2 June 2014 as encouraging efforts to better manage and disseminate the various aspects of its work.

Bangladesh and Tonga made comments concerning capacity development, training and outreach. Bangladesh urged the Secretariat to engage universities, scientific institutions and other entities of the developing countries so that more of their scientists could participate in marine scientific activities through the Endowment Fund for Marine Scientific Research. Tonga said it had, for the first time, become a beneficiary of the Fund by way of one of its environmental lawyers currently attending the Rhodes Academy of Ocean Law and Policy in Greece.

Cameroon aligned itself with Nigeria with regard to training opportunities for participants from developing States and the need for more sensitization sessions. Chile said it was essential that a sensitization session be planned in that country, and offered to be in touch with the Secretariat on the matter.

Argentina, Cameroon, China, Japan and Myanmar supported the Secretary-General’s efforts for the speedy adoption of exploitation regulations. Japan also described as “meaningful” the Secretariat’s stakeholder survey for developing a regulatory framework for minerals exploration in the Area, to which it had submitted its views. China said the work related to the formulation of the exploration regulations should proceed progressively and galvanize consensus to reflect a balance between resource utilization and environmental protection.

As a memento to the twentieth anniversary of the establishment of the Authority, the Japan-sponsored JOGMEC, the first contractor for cobalt-rich crust, presented a sample of the crust to the Secretary-General.

With regard to the matter of the extension of exploration contracts for nodules, due to expire in 2016 and 2017, Trinidad and Tobago expressed the hope that in formulating criteria for the possible extension of such contracts, the Legal and Technical Commission would require applicants to provide economic or technological reasons why they had not been able to fulfil their contractual requirements for the past fifteen years. Furthermore, any request for extension should be accompanied by a work programme for the next five years.

Mexico proposed that the Assembly create an advisory group to support the Authority. This group would be open to any member wanting to participate. The delegation had drafted a simple text to be submitted for consideration.  Cameroon and Norway deemed it too early to take a decision on the proposal.

A number of delegations welcomed Niger as the most recent member State to become party to the Convention.

Two observers also contributed to the debate on the Secretary-General’s report. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) said it was ready to work closely with States parties and the Authority to ensure that the best available scientific information on marine and coastal biodiversity could be provided for consideration by the organs of the Authority. The International Cable Protection Committee (ICPC) offered ideas on how the 2010 Memorandum of Understanding with the Authority could deliver on the mutual promise embodied in that document.

The Assembly resumes today, 24 July, to complete its discussion on the Secretary-General’s annual report.

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Seabed Authority's Assembly Begins Two Day Discussion of Annual Report of the Secretary-General

The challenge of managing the increasing work load of the Authority as it moves towards elaborating exploitation regulations and the need for standardized data on the living resources of the seabed Area were highlighted by Secretary General, Nii Allotey Odunton (Ghana).

Presenting the report contained in document ISBA/20/A/2, the Secretary-General noted that with seven new contracts having been approved at the current session, bringing the total number of contracts to 26, the workload of the Legal and Technical Commission would increase significantly. He estimated that the time needed to review the annual reports of all the contractors would be at least 13 days, more time than currently allocated to the Commission to complete its entire agenda for the year. He suggested that the Authority should consider how the work would be managed in the future.

The report, submitted under article 166 paragraph 4 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, provides information on the work of the Authority from July 2013 to June 2014. It covers, among others, administrative and financial matters, the Authority’s relations with the host Government, Jamaica, and status of contracts for exploration in the Area.

The Secretary-General also said that in the proposed administrative budget for the financial period 2015-2016, he had requested that funds be allocated for the necessary refurbishment of the Secretariat. However, the reduced budget allocation recommended by the Finance Committee would only coverf upgrades to the security system and the carpet.  

Secretary-General’s report

The report observes that the Authority has achieved significant milestones since 2000. It has “cemented its place” as the central authority to organize and control activities in the seabed Area beyond national jurisdiction. The Authority has adopted and implemented three sets of regulations for exploration for polymetallic nodules, polymetallic sulphides, and cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts, and has also entered into contracts for exploration for all three different resources.

Furthermore, the Authority has carried out preliminary studies relating to the implementation of article 82, paragraph 4, of the Convention, which requires State parties to make payments or contributions in kind for exploitation of the non-living resources of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.

The first group of exploration contracts issued by the Authority will come to an end between March 2016 and March 2017, with the expectation that some of the contractors involved will be in a position at that time to proceed to exploitation. For this reason, as well as the significant increase in the level of interest in deep seabed mining, an exploitation code was being formulated.

Noting that the year 2014 marks the twentieth anniversary of the establishment of the Authority, the report observes that the Assembly may wish to revisit article 154 of the Convention and review the manner in which the international regime has operated in practice.

 In this connection, it draws attention to the growing interest in the development of marine minerals in the deep seabed, the increased workload of the Secretariat, particularly in the areas of contract administration and supervision and the need for progress in the development of an appropriate fiscal regime that would allow those contractors in a position to do so to proceed to exploitation.

Membership

The report states that the Authority now has 166 members (165 States and the European Union), the latest being Niger which is also a party to the 1994 Agreement relating to the Implementation of Part XI (seabed provisions) of the Convention. As at 25 May 2014, there were 145 parties to the 1994 Agreement.  The Secretary General encouraged the 21 members who had not yet become parties, to do so as early as possible

Relationship with the Host Government

During the reporting period, the Secretariat continued to actively seek redress from the Government of Jamaica to the long-standing problems of the poor condition of the Authority’s headquarters building as previously reported by the Secretary-General. Whilst the Government has addressed some of these issues, the problem of the inconsistent water supply and the poor performance of the air-conditioning units remained unresolved, the report asserts. Additionally, in spite of the efforts made by the Jamaica Conference to improve the audio system there were still interruptions experienced during the meetings of the Legal and Technical Commission that were held in February 2014.
           
The report observes that while the Government of Jamaica is responsible for maintaining the fabric of the headquarters building, the Authority handles minor internal repairs and decoration of the secretariat offices on the first and second floors. The Secretariat offices were last refurbished in 1999 and are now in a very poor state.

The relationship between the Authority and the host Government is governed by a Headquarters Agreement, which entered into force on 26 August 1999, and a supplementary agreement relating to the occupation of the headquarters of the Authority, which entered into force on 2 June 2004.


Administrative Matters

The Authority, an autonomous organization, subscribed to the statute of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) in 2013, and is therefore a full participant in the United Nations common systems of salaries, allowances and other conditions of service, with all associated benefits and obligations.  It participated in the seventy-eighth session of the ICSC, held in New York from 17 to 28 March 2014.

During the reporting period, from 28 October to 1 November 2013, the Secretariat hosted a workshop for the ICSC on the review of the Human Resources Management Framework. The Secretary General said that with the approval of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) by the Council during this session, it will be necessary for the Authority to deploy the supporting UMOJA Enterprise Resources Planning (ERP) system developed by the United Nations.
 
Cost Saving Measures

 The Secretariat continued to use its best efforts to constrain unnecessary increases in its administrative expenses through implementation of cost-saving and efficiency measures where possible, according to the report. The Secretariat is currently working with a number of United Nations agencies to formulate a common services agreement geared at overall cost savings through combined operations and strategic alliances. A four-day workshop was organized from 7 to 10 May 2014 to prepare the business operations strategy and review the latest UN guidelines, tool and models to achieve operational efficiency, including needs and cost-benefit analysis.

Financial Matters

At its eighteenth session in 2012, the Authority’s Assembly approved an administrative budget for the financial period 2013-2014 in the amount of $14,312,948 (ISBA/18/A/7).
 
The Secretary General pointed out that the overhead charge of $47,000 to be payable annually by contractors to cover the administration and supervision of contracts and review of their annual reports, would lead to a significant decrease (approximately $1.8 million) in the amount of the budget that would have to be financed by member states.
 
As at 30 April 2014, 68.7 per cent of the value of contributions to the 2014 budget due from member States and the European Community had been received from 29.7 per cent of the Authority’s membership. Contributions outstanding from member States for prior periods (1998-2013) amount to US$ 283,731. As at 30 April 2014, 43 members of the Authority were in arrears for a period of two years or more, and would consequently have no vote in accordance with article 184 of the Convention and rule 80 of the rules of procedure of the Assembly.  The Secretary General urged all members in arrears to take the necessary steps to pay their contributions.

Also as at the same date, the balance of the Authority’s Working Capital Fund stood at US$ 556,522 against an approved level of US$ 560,000

Voluntary Trust Fund

The Voluntary Trust Fund (VTF) for the participation in the work of the Finance Committee and the Legal and Technical Commission by members from developing countries was established in 2002. The total amount paid out of the Fund, as at 30 April 2014, is US$491,570. A balance of US$ 154,038 remains.

The Fund is made up of voluntary contributions from members of the Authority and others. Over the life of the Fund, contributions totalling US$ 443,699 have been paid in to it. The last contribution was made in September 2013 by Japan in the amount of US$ 44,760.

Endowment Fund for Marine Scientific Research in the Area

The Endowment Fund for Marine Scientific Research in the Area was established by the Assembly in 2006 (ISBA/12/A/11). The Endowment Fund promotes and encourages the conduct of marine scientific research in the seabed Area for the benefit of mankind as a whole, in particular by supporting the participation of qualified scientists and technical personnel from developing countries in marine scientific research programmes.

Since the Authority’s nineteenth session, two awards have been made from the Fund. The first award of $30,000 was made to the Rhodes academy to help fund a number of fellowships for students from developing countries and to expand the Academy’s training programmes to cover issues relating to deep seabed marine science. As at 31 May 2014, 59 scientists or government officials from developing countries have been beneficiaries of financial support from the Endowment Fund. 

The Secretary General described the Endowment fund as a very useful mechanism of the Authority. He outlined one strategy being used to increase the capital of the Fund. Having processed an application for a plan of work, he explained, the secretariat would inform the applicant of the cost and requested to apply any remaining balance of application fees to the fund.

As at 30 April 2014, the capital of the fun stood at $3,417,038, and a total of $428,932 had been disbursed form the interest accrued on the capital.
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Library, publications and website

The Satya N. Nandan Library, named after the Authority’s first Secretary-General, is the main information resource for the Secretariat and for member States and other individuals and institutions looking for specialist information on seabed resources and legal and political issues relating to the deep sea. The last major upgrade to the facilities in the library was done during the renovation of the headquarters in 1999. It was anticipated that by July 2014, the public access area of the library would have been updated with a new reception area and improved reading areas.

Describing the Authority’s library as the “most extensive on deep seabed mining on the planet”, the Secretary-General outlined the progress made in developing the specialized research capability of the existing library collection through an acquisitions programme. This programme aimed at building upon and strengthening the library’s comprehensive collection of reference material, and to improve access to information. He also said that the library continued to benefit through the generous donations obtained from institutions, organizations and individuals.  He warned, however, that budgetary resources will need to be increased in financial period 2015-2016 if the same level of services is to be maintained. 

At the end of 2013, the Authority launched a new publications strategy utilizing a combination of print-on-demand and electronic publishing technology to reduce costs through streamlining publishing practices.

The Authority’s website is currently being upgraded and redeveloped to better manage and disseminate the various aspects of its work to member States, its various organs and the public at large. The restructured website will be compatible with cross-browser platforms and will also be accessible on mobile devices. During the reporting period, the ICT unit developed and deployed an extranet accessible to members of the Legal and Technical Commission to allow secure collaboration between them. At the Commission’s request, an electronic log was also developed to record the submission of documents and communications by contractors in order to facilitate inventory, search and production of various reports.

Status of contracts for exploration in the Area

As at 19 May 2014, 16 exploration contracts were in force, covering approximately 900,000 kilometres of the seafloor in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. Twelve contracts cover exploration for polymetallic nodules, two for polymetallic sulphides and two for cobalt-rich crusts.

The Secretary-General noted that with seven new contracts having been approved at this session, taking the total number contracts to 26, the workload of the Commission would increase significantly. He estimated that the time needed just to review the annual reports of all the contractors would be at least 13 days, more time than was currently allocated to the Commission to complete its entire agenda for the year. He suggested that the Authority should begin to consider how the work will be managed in the future.

The second in the series of taxonomic exchange workshops which will focus on macrofauna will be held in the Republic of Korea in the last quarter of 2014. The third workshop, on meiofauna will take place in the first part of 2015. The first workshop, which took place in Germany last year, was supported by the Authority and the International Network for Scientific Investigation of Deep Sea Ecosystems. 

Ad hoc informal working group on marine biodiversity

The Authority participated in meeting of the Ad hoc Open-ended Information Working Group establish by the General Assembly to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction. The Authority was also invited to participate in a regional workshop on marine biodiversity for states members of the Caribbean Community held in Kingston in May 2014; as well as an event hosted by the Government of Bermuda to celebrate the signature of the Hamilton Declaration on Collaboration for the Conservation of the Sargasso Sea.

The Secretary-General made the point that in spite of having agreements contractors who were required to provide it with data, the Authority had in fact very little information about the living resources of the seabed. He added that the contractors themselves recognized the need for standardization of taxonomy especially with regard to fauna associated with mineral deposits. The Secretary General wondered to what extent the data being discussed at the meetings of the ad hoc working group meeting were standardized.

Capacity development
 
The Secretary-General’s report sets out two main ways in which the Authority seeks to carry out its responsibilities under articles 143 and 144 of the Convention to promote marine scientific research in the Area and build the capacity of developing States in deep-sea research and technology:  the training programmes provided by contractors as part of the contracts for exploration in the Area, and the Endowment Fund for Marine Scientific Research.
 
Contractors with the Authority have a legal obligation to provide and fund training opportunities for trainees from developing States and the Authority.  The legal basis for this requirement stems from the provisions of the Convention and the 1994 Agreement and is set out in the standard terms of contracts.

In 2013, the Legal and Technical Commission began to review the implementation of training under contracts for exploration with a view to assessing the effectiveness of training programmes. As a result, the Commission issued a revised set of recommendations for the guidance of contractors and sponsoring States in relation to training programmes under plans of work for exploration (ISBA/19/LTC/14).  The Commission recommended, among other things, that contractors, as a minimum, should provide training equivalent for at least 10 trainees during each five-year period of the contract.

The Secretary-General said that it was apparent that many member states did not have system for identifying the kinds of skill sets they required and seeking appropriate training opportunities.

Sensitization seminars

The Secretary-General reported that the Authority had received requests for sensitization seminars in Ghana, Chile, South Africa, Uganda and the African Union which will be considered in the context of its budget.

The purpose of the seminars is to inform government officials, marine policymakers and scientists at national and regional institutions of the work of the Authority, and to promote the participation of scientists from institutions in developing countries in marine scientific research undertaken in the seabed Area by international research organizations.

Two sensitization seminars were convened during this reporting period - Mexico City, Mexico (November 2013) and United Nations Headquarters in New York (April 2014).

Periodic Review under article 154 of the Convention

Article 154 requires the Assembly of the international Seabed Authority,  to undertake, every five years from the date of entry into force of the Convention, a general and systematic review of the manner in which the international regime of the Area established in the Convention has operated in practice. It also provides that the Assembly, as part of the review, may recommend that other organs of the Authority also take measures which could lead to the improvement of the operation of the regime. The Secretary-General pointed out that no such review had been undertaken by the Assembly over the past twenty years.
 
In closing his presentation, the Secretary-General expressed satisfaction at the level of attendance at the current session of the Authority and hoped it would be maintained.

Discussion of the report

The representative of Monaco highlighted the topic of capacity building. He said that without it, the objectives of the Convention could not be implemented.  He supported the emphasis placed in the report on the need for marine scientific research.

Canada, speaking on behalf of the CANZ group (Canada Australia and New Zealand) remarked that the Authority’s 20th anniversary was reason to celebrate, but also time for strategic thinking about the future.

The representative welcomed the Council decision adopted earlier today which set out the critical tasks of the Legal and Technical Commission for the next 12 months, namely, the development of draft procedures and criteria for applications for the extension of exploration contracts, and the development of exploitation regulations.
 
The CANZ group also viewed the stakeholders’ survey conducted by the secretariat last March as a useful exercise and suggested that the Legal and Technical Commission could “build on this and provide more opportunities to receive input” to ensure transparency in relation to the exploitation regulations.  A similar survey exercise could be used, the representative suggested, as a way to lay the groundwork for a review of the regime established by the Convention, pursuant to article 154.

Nigeria, speaking on behalf of the African Group, emphasised the fact that one of the obligations of contractors was to provide training opportunities for participants from developing states. The representative said that the African nations looked forward to more of their citizens benefitting from such opportunities. He also looked forward to more sensitization sessions which he described as a useful mechanism for creating awareness of the work of the Authority.  He hoped that one would take place next year. Nigeria welcomed Niger, the most recent State to become party to the Convention.

Fiji affirmed that the preparation of exploitation regulations was the “priority work” for the Authority and said that a substantive version of the draft exploitation regulations should be an outcome of the twenty-first session. To this end, the representative called for the Legal and Technical Commission to be given all the necessary resources required to expedite its work. Fiji said the Authority was moving towards “a whole new phase of business” and believed it would be prudent that a review of the Authority’s systems be undertaken without too much delay.

The Assembly will resume its discussion of the Secretary-General’s report in the afternoon (Wednesday 23 July).

 

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Seabed Council Adopts Decision on Report of Legal and Technical Commisison; Concludes Work at Authority's Twentieth Session

The Council of the International Seabed Authority, meeting in Kingston this morning, adopted a twelve-paragraph decision on the summary report of the Chair of the Legal and Technical Commission which was presented at its 17 July meeting.

Revised from a 32-paragraph document submitted by Brazil on the basis of comments and contributions by members of the Council, the draft decision (ISBA/20/C/L.10) is a streamlined consensus text formulated during informal group consultations on Monday, 21 July.

Brazil, who thanked delegations for helping to produce a more concise document for the Council to adopt, recommended that the paragraphs left out from the previous draft could be included in a report to the Assembly by the President of the Council – a point on which other delegations agreed. France said it would allow the decision to go forward but felt there were some paragraphs that were more suited for the President’s report.

The decision reads as follows:

 By the draft decision, the Council requested the Commission “as a matter of urgency and as its priority” to formulate draft procedures and criteria for applications for extension of contracts for exploration, to be submitted to the Council at its 2015 session, in accordance with section 3.2 of the standard clauses contained in annex 4 to the Regulations. This was to be applied in a uniform and non-discriminatory manner to all requests for extension of contracts for exploration. The Commission’s text was to be made available in advance of the Council’s 2015 session.

The Council took note, with appreciation, of the summary report of the Chair of the Commission on its work during the twentieth session and requested the Commission to continue its elaboration of the exploitation regulations as a matter of priority. A draft framework was to be made available to all members of the Authority and all stakeholders as soon as possible after the Commission’s February 2015 meeting.

The Commission was requested to consider, as appropriate, the submission by
the Netherlands on environmental management plans and environmental impact assessments in the regulatory framework for mineral exploitation in the Area (ISBA/20/C/13) in the context of its work on the preparation of draft regulations for exploitation in the Area.

By the text, the Council called the attention of contractors to the issues raised and recommendations made by the Commission on their annual reports.

The Commission was asked to examine ways to ensure that training opportunities effectively considered the interests and needs of developing States, particularly the landlocked and geographically disadvantaged among them, in accordance with article 148 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and recommendations on training programmes embodied in plans of work of contractors and sponsoring States.

The Council requested the Commission to continue to work on issues related to the sponsorship by States of exploration contracts in the Area, with particular attention to a test of effective control, as well as with issues related to monopolization of activities in the Area, considering, in particular, the concept of abuse of a dominant position.

Furthermore, the Council requested the Commission to submit for its approval, not later than its 2016 session, draft procedures on the handling of confidential data and information, as provided for in rule 12 of its own rules of procedure. Its Secretariat was encouraged to continue their work, up to and beyond 2015, on the implementation of the environmental management plan for the Clarion-Clipperton Zone.

The Commission was encouraged to consider developing environmental management plans in other international seabed Area zones, in particular where there were currently exploration contracts, in line with the suggestion by the United Nations General Assembly in paragraph 51 of its resolution 68/70.  All contractors were encouraged to make their environmental data readily and publicly available.

The Commission was asked to continue exploring initiatives to increase transparency and dialogue on the development of its work, in particular on issues of general interest to member States and other stakeholders of the Authority.

Finally, the Council also requested the Secretary-General to ensure that adequate time and resources continued to be made available to support the Commission’s work, especially on priority issues.

The representative of the Netherlands drew attention to the statement of the President of the Council of the International Seabed Authority on the work of the Council during the nineteenth session (ISBA/19/C/18). Paragraph 17 of the report read, in part:

The Council further requested the Legal and Technical Commission to review the provisions of the three sets of regulations relating to the monopolization of activities in the Area and the option of offering an equity interest in a joint venture arrangement with a view to aligning all three sets of regulations in this respect, and to make a recommendation thereon for consideration by the Council at its twentieth session in 2014.

The Netherlands said the Council could either add this request as a paragraph in the current draft decision or the President could ask the Commission to report on the matter at the next session.

The Authority’s Legal Counsel said Netherland’s point was important and that the matter was mentioned in the summary report of the Commission in the context of issues relating to the operation of the Enterprise, in paragraph 34. He said the president’s report could emphasise the points raised by the Netherlands.

The Russian Federation said there was a translation error on the last line of paragraph 2 of the decision that changed the meaning in Russian and asked that it be corrected.

Fiji said it supported the 12-paragraph draft decision but needed clarification on the term “geographically disadvantaged” in reference to developing States in paragraph 6. Brazil noted that the term appeared in Part XI of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. More precisely, Trinidad and Tobago said the term appeared in Article 148 of the Convention – Participation of developing States in activities of the Area. The representative of Trinidad and Tobago said while his delegation would not want to change the current wording of the decision, he hoped that in future decisions the term “small Island developing States” could be included in language of decisions of the Council.

On the matter of future meetings of the Council, Brazil, supported by the Netherlands, felt there should be an option for the regulatory body of the Authority to convene more frequent meetings when necessary, particularly to deal with pending new regulations.

Before closing the final meeting for the twentieth session, President of the Council, Tommo Monthe (Cameroon) hailed the cooperation that prevailed among delegations and allowed the Council to complete its 17-point agenda. “We need this spirit of cooperation to ensure the success of our work now and in the future”, he said.

Highlights of the Council Session

A highlight of the Council’s session was the adoption of a draft decision (ISBA/20/C/L.2) by which the Assembly would approve US$ 15,743,143 for the Authority’s operations for the biennium 2015-2016.

The draft decision, based on recommendations of the Finance Committee, was amended to include two additional paragraphs, one urging members of the Committee to fulfil their obligations to attend its meetings. The other would request the Secretary-General to provide in future a complete narrative in support of his budget proposals, including a breakdown of projected costs for large items of expenditure, and to ensure that the budget was in line with the priorities set by both the Council and the Assembly. An existing paragraph was also amended to express appreciation to those members of the Authority who have made voluntary contributions to the Voluntary Trust Fund and the International Seabed Authority Endowment Fund.

The Council, at its second meeting of the Session, took note of two reports of the Secretary-General. One report addressed the status of prospecting and contract for exploration for three types of mineral resources in the seabed Area- polymetallic nodules, polymetallic sulphides and cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts (20/C/12 and ISBA/20/C/12/Add.1). It included information on the status of the periodic review of the implementation of the exploration contracts for polymetallic nodules between the International Seabed Authority and the Government of India.

The second report outlined laws, regulations, and administrative measures adopted by sponsoring States and other members of the Authority with respect to activity in the Area.

The Council examined procedures for possible extension of exploration contracts and mechanisms for the formulation of regulations for exploitation in the Area during discussions of a summary report of the Chair of the Legal and Technical Commission on its February and July sessions.

The Council adopted amendments to two separate Regulations - Prospecting and Exploration for Polymetallic Sulphides and Prospecting and Exploration for Polymetallic Nodules.

In other matters, it elected the Czech Republic to the remaining position for vice-president for the Eastern European Group, joining Argentina (Latin American and Caribbean States), Bangladesh (the Asian Group) and the Netherlands (Western European and Others Group) who were elected at the Council’s first meeting.

Ahead of the debate, the 36-member Council received an Explanatory note on the “environmental management plan in the regulatory framework for mineral exploitation in the Area” (ISBA/20/C/13) prepared by the Netherlands.


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