At the heart of the regime for the Area established by Part XI of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 1994 Agreement relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is the so-called parallel system, elaborated in article 153 of the Convention.
An essential element of the parallel system is where, in the case of polymetallic nodules, an application must be sufficiently large and of sufficient value to accommodate two mining operations of “equal estimated commercial value”.
One part is to be allocated to the applicant and the other is to become the reserved area. These reserved areas are set aside for activities by developing States or by the Authority through its Enterprise
The system of site-banking is explained in annex III, article 8, of the Convention, in the Agreement (annex, section 3, para. 11 (b), and in the Regulations on Prospecting and Exploration for Polymetallic Nodules in the Area (regulations 15 to 17).
Each application for exploration for polymetallic nodules must cover a total area, which need not be a single continuous area, sufficiently large and of sufficient estimated commercial value to accommodate two mining operations and to be divided into two parts of “equal estimated commercial value”. One part is to be allocated to the applicant and the other is to become the reserved area. The application area must not exceed a total of 150,000 square kilometres.
The applicant is required to indicate the coordinates dividing the area under application into those two parts. Designation of the reserved area may either precede the application for approval of a plan of work for exploration or, may be simultaneous with such an application. The application must contain sufficient data and information to enable the Council to designate a reserved area based on the estimated commercial value of each part.
The Council, on the basis of the data and information submitted by the applicant, if found satisfactory, and taking into account the recommendation of the Legal and Technical Commission, designates the part of the area under application which is to be a reserved area. The designated areas become reserved areas as soon as the plan of work for the non-reserved area is approved and the contract is signed.