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115 

would be taken on a first‐come, first‐served basis.   

17. Accordingly, the Commission proposed to apply a similar procedure to that found in resolution II. The Commission’s proposal (draft regulation 24 (2) in the annex to document ISBA/13/C/WP.1) provided that, in the event of overlapping claims, the Secretary‐General would notify the applicants before the matter was considered by the Council. Applicants would then have the opportunity to amend their claims so as to resolve any conflicts with respect to their applications. However, in the event of a conflict, the Council would then determine the area or areas to be allocated to each applicant on an equitable and non‐discriminatory basis.  

18. During the discussions at the fourteenth session, it became clear that most members of the Council did not agree with the proposal as formulated by the Legal and Technical Commission. In particular, it was generally considered inappropriate for the Council to be forced to make a choice between competing applications. A preference was expressed for a time period to be allowed during which competing applicants could determine between themselves the resolution of any overlaps, with the ultimate possibility of recourse to binding dispute settlement. Following an initial debate, an alternative proposal for a draft regulation 22 bis was prepared by the Secretariat (ISBA/14/C/CRP.2) and circulated on 2 June 2008. There was insufficient time to discuss that proposal in detail and several delegations asked for more time to consider the legal issues and precedents involved.   

19. In the light of the discussions in 2008, the Secretariat prepared suggested language for a new regulation 23 for consideration by the Council at the fifteenth session (ISBA/15/C/WP.2, annex II). According to that formulation, an overlapping application submitted within a period of 60 days of an earlier application would have the effect of suspending further action on both (or all) applications until such time as any conflicts between applicants could be resolved. Since neither the Convention nor the 1994 Agreement provide a mechanism whereby either the Legal and Technical Commission or the Council could make a choice between competing applications, 1  it was suggested that no further action should be taken on any such application until all conflicts in respect of such applications could be resolved. Competing applicants would be provided with an opportunity to resolve conflicts by negotiations. During this period, any such applicant may submit an amended claim. In the event that it was not possible to resolve overlapping claims by negotiation, it would be necessary to refer the claims to an appropriate form of dispute settlement. In this regard, the working paper prepared by the Secretariat (ISBA/15/C/WP.2) provided delegations with an analysis of the various options available, including the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Arbitration Rules and the Optional Rules for Arbitration of Disputes Relating to Natural Resources and/or the Environment of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, as well as a discussion of the application of article 188 of the Convention.  

20. Discussions on this matter took place during the fifteenth session and a number of formal and informal proposals were made. Much of the discussion took place in an informal open‐ended working group chaired by New Zealand. While there was general agreement on some of the elements of draft regulation 23, there was no consensus on the overall text of draft regulation 23, in particular the question of how any dispute over overlapping claims would ultimately be resolved. On the other hand, there appeared to be general agreement on the relevance of the first‐come, first‐served principle, the idea that there should be a limited time period during which a subsequent application for the same area may be considered overlapping (although there were different views on how long this period should be), and the need for applicants with competing claims to the same area to resolve overlapping claims in a fair and equitable manner.  

21. Given the nature of the discussions in 2009, the Secretariat is not in a position to propose any new language for draft regulation 23. Thus, the version of regulation 23 that appears in document ISBA/15/C/WP.1/Rev.1, as a basis for continued discussion by the Council, reflects merely the latest version of the text discussed in the Council in 2009. It is recognized that there is no consensus on the text. __________________ 

1.   The power of the Council to approve a recommendation relating to a plan of work for exploration is strictly limited by the 1994 Agreement, section 3, paragraphs 11 and 12. There is no procedure for the approval of part of a plan of work or for the resolution of disputes by the Council.

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