Maritime Security and the Law of the Sea: Help or Hindrance?

3 July 2017, 9.30 AM - 3 July 2017, 6.30 PM

Seminar Room 5.68, Wills Memorial Building

On Monday, the 3rd of July 2017, Professor Sir Malcolm Evans and Dr Sofia Galani will host a one-day workshop on maritime security and the law of the sea at the University of Bristol Law School. 

The seas and oceans cover 70 percent of the earth’s surface, and 90 percent of world trade travels by sea. The oceans have always been a source of power and wealth for states who have been keen to delimit their own maritime boundaries, but have also made efforts to ensure the high seas remain open to all users. Maritime nations have been enjoying a military advantage over smaller coastal and landlocked states by using and controlling their maritime domain for the purposes of navigation, commerce, and naval warfare. Economic benefits from the development of the sea tourism industry and aquaculture have also been added to the exploitation of fisheries and marine natural resources, which have traditionally contributed to the economy of coastal states.

Nevertheless, the ongoing growth originating from the oceans has been shadowed by increasing maritime security threats. While the traditional disputes amongst states regarding the use and delimitation of their maritime zones remain, new maritime security threats posed by non-state actors have urged states to reconsider their understanding of maritime security and rethink the use and protection of their maritime domain. The bombings of USS Cole and M/V Limburg,theSomali pirate attacks, and the migration crisis in the Mediterranean Sea are few examples of the emerging maritime security threats. All this has brought maritime security to the forefront of the international law of the sea scene with states and international organisations publishing, for the first time, their maritime security strategies.

Unsurprisingly, states, scholars and practitioners turn to the 1982 UNCLOS – the ‘constitution of the oceans’ – to seek answers as to how to protect their maritime domain against new maritime security threats. The 1982 UNCLOS was drafted for the purposes of ensuring the peaceful use of oceans, but the Convention is considered a living instrument.This means that the Convention can be interpreted in a way that allows for current security challenges and threats to fit within the meaning of its various provisions. However, it is inevitable that certain emerging activities and concepts closely interlinked with maritime security, such as maritime domain awareness and blue economy, will not easily fit within the provisions and purposes of the Convention.

In light of these developments, this workshop is aimed at revisiting the 1982 UNCLOS from a maritime security perspective. The underlying question that all contributors will be invited to address is: does the 1982 UNCLOS assist or hinder maritime security? The first part of the workshop will be aimed at examining what is meant by maritime security and whether this has changed since the days when UNCLOS was drafted. It will then look at the general approach to maritime security found in UNCLOS, such as jurisdictional issues at sea in the interests of economic exploitation, and whether that has been displaced by a new paradigm which does not fit so easily within the resource-oriented UNCLOS structure. This introduction will then lead to a series of focused discussions on how recent security-related issues, such as trafficking in migrants and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), the use of naval military technologies, port security, environmental threats and maritime domain awareness, have been addressed within the UNCLOS framework in order to assess whether the UNCLOS can be made to fit these new issues and concerns. The final question addressed by the workshop will be whether new paradigms require new conventions - and whether the time has come to commence the process of thinking about a new conceptual and conventional architecture that reflects what is really going on today, and what we predict will be going on tomorrow. The ambition of the workshop is to contribute to our current understanding of the law of the sea, raise awareness of contemporary maritime security threats, and suggest solutions as to how to strengthen the security of the seas.


Prof Richard Barnes, University of Hull

Commander Kara Chadwick MBE, Royal Navy Legal Adviser

Prof Tim Edmunds, University of Bristol

Prof Sir Malcolm Evans, University of Bristol

Dr Sofia Galani, University of Bristol

Prof Maria Gavouneli, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

Mr David Hammond, CEO Human Rights at Sea

Dr James Harrison, University of Edinburgh

Dr Nicholas Ioannides, University of Bristol

Mr Andrew Murdoch, Legal Director Foreign Commonwealth Office

Prof Anna Petrig, University of Zurich

Prof Volker Roeben, University of Swansea 

Prof Keyuan Zou, University of Central Lancashire


Contact information

For the full brochure please download the workshop maritime security and the law of the sea 2017 (PDF, 384kB)

For more information, please contact Dr Sofia Galani at

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