The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) outlines the areas of national jurisdiction as a twelve-nautical-mile territorial sea; an exclusive economic zone of up to 200 nautical miles and a continental shelf. The international seabed area - the part under ISA jurisdiction - is defined as “the seabed and ocean floor and the subsoil thereof, beyond the limits of national jurisdiction
It is in the international seabed area (the Area), that the Authority has entered into 15-year contracts with twenty-six contractors for exploration for polymetallic nodules, polymetallic sulphides and cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts.
The areas being explored are in the Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone, the Indian Ocean, Mid Atlantic Ridge, South Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.
For polymetallic nodules, the entitled exploration area allocated to each contractor is 75,000 square kilometres.
For polymetallic sulphides, the entitled exploration area allocated to each contractor is 10,000 square kilometres and consists of 100 blocks. Each block is no greater than 100 square kilometres.
For cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts, the entitled exploration area allocated to each contractor is 3,000 kilometres and consists of 150 blocks. Each block is no greater than 20 square kilometres.
Contract Management Unit
The Authority's Contract Management Unit is the central administrative point of contact between contractors, sponsoring States and the Secretariat. The Unit processes applications for approval of plans of work for exploration or exploitation, as well as applications for extensions of such contracts. It maintains a definitive central registry of contracts, in accordance with best international practice, and ensures the safe custody and confidentiality of all documents, data and information submitted in connection with such contracts and applications for approval of plans of work.
The Contract Management Unit also accounts for and reports on fees and charges paid by contractors, manages the training programme, receives and processes annual activity reports, and manages the reporting process to the relevant principal organs and subsidiary bodies of the Authority on the status and implementation of contracts.