The International Seabed Authority has entered into 15-year contracts for exploration for polymetallic nodules, polymetallic sulphides and cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts in the deep seabed with twenty three contractors.
Fourteen of these contracts are for exploration for polymetallic nodules in the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone (13) and Central Indian Ocean Basin (1). There are five contracts for exploration for polymetallic sulphides in the South West Indian Ridge, Central Indian Ridge and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and four contracts for exploration for cobalt-rich crusts in the Western Pacific Ocean.
The conclusion of contracts allow these contractors to explore specified parts of the deep oceans outside national jurisdiction.
Under the Regulations, each contractor has the exclusive right to explore an initial area of up to 150,000 square kilometers. Over the first eight years of the contract, half of this area is to be relinquished.
Each contractor is required to propose a programme for the training of nationals of developing States. The training programme, as agreed with the Authority, is incorporated into the contract as schedule 3.
Each contractor is also required to submit an annual report on its programme of activities.
Prior to the commencement of its programme of activities under the contract, each contractor is also required to submit to the Secretary-General a contingency plan to respond effectively to incidents arising from its activities in the exploration area.
The signature of these exploration contracts gives practical and real effect to the single regime for the Area established by the 1982 Convention and the 1994 Agreement and as such represents a significant step forward for the international community.
Procedures and Criteria for the Extension of an Approved Plan of Work
On July 2015, the Council of the International Seabed Authority adopted a decision relating to the procedures and criteria for the extension of an approved plan of work for exploration pursuant to section 1, paragraph 9, of the annex to the Agreement relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 (ISBA / 21 / C / 19 *). The decision includes an appendix I which relates to information to be contained in an application for extension of a contract for exploration. Six applications for an extension of a contract were received during the period from September to December 2015.