The General Assembly, by resolution 2340 (XXII) of 18 December 1967, established an Ad Hoc Committee to Study the Peaceful Uses of the Sea-Bed and the Ocean Floor beyond the Limits of National Jurisdiction, consisting of thirty-six Member States. The Ad Hoc Committee held three sessions during 1968, and presented its study (A/7230) to the General Assembly at its twenty-third session, in 1968. Having considered the report of the Ad Hoc Committee, the General Assembly adopted on 21 December 1968 resolution 2467 A (XXIII), by which it decided to establish a Committee on the Peaceful Uses of the Sea-Bed and the Ocean Floor beyond the Limits of National Jurisdiction, consisting of forty-two Member States. Subsequently, on 17 December 1970, the General Assembly decided by resolution 2750 C (XXV), to convene a third conference on the law of the sea in 1973, and instructed the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of the Sea-Bed and the Ocean Floor beyond the Limits of National Jurisdiction to act as preparatory body for the conference.
The Committee held six sessions and a number of additional meetings in New York and Geneva between 1971 and 1973. On 18 December 1972, having considered the report on the Committee’s work during its 1972 sessions (A/8721 and Corr.1), the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to convene the first session of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea in 1973 to deal with organizational matters, and a second session in 1974, as well as subsequent sessions if necessary, to deal with substantive work (resolution 3029 (XXVII)). The Committee submitted its final report to the General Assembly at its twenty-eighth session, in 1973 (A/9021 and Corr.1 and 3). Having considered the report, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to invite States to the Conference, and decided that the mandate of the Conference was the adoption of a Convention dealing with all matters relating to the Law of the Sea (resolution 3067 (XXVIII) of 16 November 1973).
The Conference, in which 160 states participated, held eleven sessions between 1973 and 1982. At the first session, the Conference set up a General Committee, three Main Committees, a Drafting Committee and a Credentials Committee.
During its second session, the Conference determined the competence of the three Main Committees by allocating to the plenary or the Committees the subjects and issues on the list prepared in accordance with General Assembly resolution 2750 C (XXV) (A/CONF.62/ 29). The Conference allocated to the First Committee the topic of the international regime of the sea-bed and ocean floor beyond national jurisdiction, and to the Second Committee the topics of the territorial sea, the contiguous zone, the continental shelf, the exclusive economic zone, the high seas, land-locked countries, shelf-locked States and States with narrow shelves or short coastlines and the transmission from the high seas, while the topic of the preservation of the marine environment was allocated to the Third Committee. All the main Committees, as far as the topics were relevant to their mandates, were to deal with regional arrangements, responsibility and liability for damage resulting from the use of the marine environment, settlement of disputes, and the peaceful uses of the ocean space, zones of peace and security. The latter, as well as the topic of enhancing the universal participation of States in multilateral conventions relating to the law of the sea, were to be considered directly by the plenary (A/CONF.62/29).
At its third session, at the request of the Conference, the Chairmen of the three Main Committees each prepared an informal single negotiating text covering the subjects entrusted to their respective Committees, which together constituted the informal single negotiating text (A/CONF.62/WP.8, Parts I to III). At the following session, revised texts on the settlement of disputes (A/CONF.62/WP.9/Rev.l and Rev.2) as well as a revised single negotiating text (A/CONF.62/WP.8 and Rev.1) were prepared. Thereafter, at its sixth session, the Conference requested the President and the Chairmen of the Main Committees, working under the President's leadership as a team with which the Chairman of the Drafting Committee and the Rapporteur-General were associated, which was subsequently referred to as "the Collegium", to prepare an informal composite negotiating text (A/CONF.62/WP.10), covering the entire range of subjects and issues contained in Parts I to IV of the revised single negotiating text. At its seventh session, the Conference identified certain outstanding core issues and established seven negotiating groups (A/CONF.62/62) for the purpose of resolving these issues (A/CONF.62/RCNG.l and 2).
Subsequently, during the eighth session, a revision of the informal composite negotiating text was prepared (A/CONF.62/WP.10/Rev.l). The Conference took the decision to complete work on the Convention by 1980. During its ninth session, on the basis of the deliberations of the Conference (125th to 128th plenary meetings), the Collegium undertook a second revision of the informal composite negotiating text, presented as the informal composite negotiating text (A/CONF.62/WP.10/Rev.2). Following the deliberations of the Conference at its tenth and resumed tenth sessions (142nd to 155th plenary meetings), the Collegium prepared a revision of the draft convention on the law of the sea (A/CONF.62/L.78), which became the official draft convention of the Conference, subject only to the specific conditions recorded in document (A/CONF.62/114). At the subsequent session, on the basis of the deliberations of the Conference (157th to 166th plenary meetings) concerning the report of the President (A/CONF.62/L.86) and the reports of the Chairmen of the Main Committees (A/CONF.62/L.87, L.91 and L.92) on the negotiations conducted by them and the report of the Chairman of the Drafting Committee on its work (A/CONF.62/L.85 and L.89), the Collegium issued a memorandum (A/CONF.62/L.93) containing changes to be incorporated in the draft convention on the law of the sea (A/CONF.62/L.78), and document A/CONF.62/L.94 setting out three draft resolutions and a draft decision of the Conference which were to be adopted at the same time as the draft convention.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea together with resolution I to IV, forming an integral whole, was provisionally adopted, subject to drafting changes, at the 182nd plenary meeting on 30 April 1982, by a recorded vote taken at the request of delegation of the United States of America. On 10 December 1982, the Conference adopted the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, containing 320 articles and nine annexes. The Convention was opened for signature, until 9 December, first at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Jamaica (from 10 December 1982), and then at the United Nations Headquarters in New York (from 1 July 1983).
The General Assembly also considered the agenda item entitled “The Law of the Sea” on 9 December 1993, and on 27 and 28 July 1994. By resolution 48/263 of 28 July 1994 the General Assembly adopted the Agreement relating to the implementation of Part XI of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982, consisting of ten articles and nine annexes.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea entered into force twelve months after the deposit of the sixtieth instrument of ratification, on 16 November 1994. The Agreement relating to the implementation of Part XI of the Convention entered into force on 28 July 1996, thirty days after the deposit of the fortieth instrument of ratification.