Tokyo, Japan – The Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority (ISA), H.E. Mr. Michael W. Lodge, heading a delegation of experts, concluded a week-long official visit to Japan today. The visit strengthened cooperation and partnerships, including delivering successful outcomes of the workshop to develop a regional environmental management plan for the Northwest Pacific.

Reflecting on the successful outcomes of the visit, Secretary-General Lodge underscored the remarkable contribution of the Government of Japan and Japanese scientific research institutions and industries in advancing global knowledge and understanding of deep-sea resources and ecosystems over the last 40 years and their steady and strong commitment towards the mandate and work of ISA.

“As the world turns its attention to the challenges and opportunities presented by the deep sea, the partnership between ISA, Japan and other key stakeholders stands as a beacon of international cooperation and environmental responsibility. I look forward to continued collaboration and innovation as a result of this week’s discussions, confident in our shared vision of a sustainable and prosperous future for our oceans,” Secretary-General Lodge said.

“Japan, a long-standing Member and supporter of ISA initiatives, has demonstrated its leadership in the sustainable development of the ocean’s resources, as testified by this week’s workshop and the numerous discussions held with senior government officials and industry leaders. I am impressed by the role Japan has played over the last 30 years and its scientific and technological achievements, which signify a milestone in the journey towards responsible deep-sea resource management, with the potential to influence global standards and practices,” he added.

Japan became a State Party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and, therefore, a Member of the ISA in 1996. Japan has studied the potential for marine mineral resources since at least the 1970s and has a long record of survey and exploration work both in Japanese waters and globally, especially in the South Pacific. Japan started to investigate the potential for polymetallic nodule deposits in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone of the Pacific Ocean as long ago as 1975. Japan became one of the very few pioneer investors under the interim regime before the entry into force of UNCLOS. Japan currently sponsors two exploration contracts with ISA: one granted to Deep Ocean Resources Development Co. Ltd. (DORD) in 2001 for the exploration for polymetallic nodules in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (extended in 2021) and one for the exploration for cobalt-rich ferromanganese crust in the Western Pacific Ocean, signed in 2014 with the Japan Organization for Metals and Energy Security (JOGMEC).

Japan is one of the few ISA Members represented in all organs of ISA. It has a seat as a Member of the Council and is represented both in the Legal and Technical Commission and the Finance Committee.

The visit led the Secretary-General and the ISA delegation to meet with key stakeholders in Tokyo and Kobe.

In Tokyo, the Secretary-General met with H.E. Ms. Yōko Kamikawa, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, who reaffirmed the importance for Japan of the rule of law and the mandate and activities of ISA for maintaining the maritime order based on UNCLOS. Minister Kamikawa further stressed the importance of the development of regulations on the exploitation of mineral resources in the Area that take into account both the conservation of the marine environment and the use of marine resources in activities in the Area and emphasized the commitment of Japan to continue to contribute constructively to the discussion.

Secretary-General Lodge also met with Mr. Shin Hosaka, Vice-Minister for International Affairs at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. During the meeting, Vice-Minister Hosaka stressed that the demand for critical minerals and the importance of deep-sea minerals, including critical minerals, is also increasing as the world moves towards carbon neutrality. The Vice-Minister further underscored that Japan will continue to contribute to formulating regulations for the exploitation of deep-sea minerals with due consideration for the environment on the deep-sea floor.

Secretary-General Lodge also met with Dr. Hiroyuki Yamato, President of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC). They discussed significant progress and achievements in deep-sea research and technology development, as well as future areas of cooperation. President Yamato noted that “marine science plays an essential role in the sustainable use of the oceans. JAMSTEC will continue to contribute to advancing knowledge and understanding of the ocean, including the deep sea floor, through observations and modelling, within the framework of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, as well as working with its collaborating organizations.”

In his meeting with JOGMEC and DORD, the Secretary-General commended the two contractors for the significant amount of data and information shared with ISA over the last 20 years and welcomed progress on technology development innovation.

Mr. Ichiro Takahara, President of JOGMEC, reiterated the importance JOGMEC attaches to the work of ISA. “It is a great pleasure for JOGMEC to host the regional environmental management plan workshop in Japan this time. ISA and JOGMEC have a long history of cooperation. JOGMEC will continue to contribute to ISA activities to realize sustainable development of marine mineral resources with substantial consideration for environmental conservation,” he said.

Reflecting on the progress achieved, Mr. Hiromasa Oba, President of DORD, said, “While some specific issues need to be resolved in light of the current situation surrounding the deep-sea mining, Japanese companies have the advanced technological capability to carry through once they decide. Our company will continue to contribute to the work of ISA.”

On 20 February 2024, the Secretary-General participated in the twenty-eighth seminar organized by the Ocean Mining Industry Promotion Roundtable (OMIPR) to discuss the “sustainable ocean economy and the role of critical raw materials in support of the green energy transition: challenges, opportunities and innovations.” The Secretary-General presented an overview of the role and mandate of ISA to the 120 participants.

In his welcoming address, Mr. Nobuyuki Aoyama, Chairman of OMIPR, noted the timeline set by the Council of ISA to finalize and adopt the Mining Code by 2025 and stressed the importance of discussing the role of critical minerals from the deep sea and the work of ISA in light of the demand set by the green energy transition.

The Secretary-General travelled to Kobe, one of leading cities in Japan, with a rich concentration of ocean-related industries and a favourable environment. In Kobe, Secretary-General Lodge met with Mr. Yasunaga Bo, President of the Assembly of Kobe City, to discuss areas of potential future cooperation. Mr. Bo underscored the visionary approach of the city of Kobe towards maritime industries in support of the development of a sustainable blue economy. “We understand and acknowledge the significance of the ISA’s initiative for our country,” he said. “Kobe City started its history as an international trade port in 812. Since then, Kobe has been home to a diverse range of ocean-related industries. In collaboration with Kobe University, local businesses and the Techno-Ocean Network, Kobe City aims for further growth as a city at the forefront of marine science and marine innovation. Devoted members of the Kobe City Assembly have established a federation that strongly supports these initiatives. We hope this visit will foster increased cooperation and understanding in this crucial field,” he added.

The delegation of ISA was then invited to visit the port of Kobe, which stands as an international trade port and the second port of Japan, handling about 2.9 million TEU container cargo annually and the Liquefied Hydrogen Receiving Terminal. Kobe is also home to a wide range of ocean-related technologies and industries in various fields such as ports, shipbuilding, steelmaking, civil engineering, fisheries, ocean research and recent initiatives related to hydrogen energy such as the demonstration project of mass hydrogen marine transportation. In addition, Kobe is home to 23 universities and junior colleges. One of these, Kobe University, has been a leading institution in producing excellent talent for the ocean-related industries for many years. Currently, research and education are conducted at the Faculty of Oceanology and the Kobe Ocean-Bottom Exploration Center (KOBEC), demonstrating its presence among ocean-related universities in Japan.

On 21 February 2024, the Secretary-General visited Kobe University and joined an expert round-table discussion on the interaction between the mandate and responsibilities of ISA and the 2023 Agreement adopted under UNCLOS for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction. The Secretary-General also presented to marine science students and signed a letter of cooperation with the KOBEC.

During the signing ceremony, Prof. Masato Fujisawa, President of Kobe University, expressed the importance of the partnership for the university. “We believe the future-oriented cooperation between ISA and Kobe University is valuable in light of our long-term vision towards a global hub for the interdisciplinary co-creation of education and research,” he said.

Welcoming the formalization of the cooperation between KOBEC and ISA, Dr. Hiroko Sugioka, Director of KOBEC, said, “We, KOBEC members and the relevant persons will endeavour to strengthen our friendship and cooperation to further opportunities for collaboration in the fields of marine education and research.”


About ISA

The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is an autonomous international organization mandated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to protect the seabed for the shared benefit of humankind. ISA is committed to the principle that all nations of the world should benefit from responsible, sustainable and regulated economic activities in the deep seabed, including deep seabed mining and the potential resources the deep seabed holds for a global green transition. ISA works to ensure that the voices of all states and stakeholders, including developing states, civil society organizations and all ISA Member States, are effectively heard in discussions around the sustainable development of the deep seabed.


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