International Law Commission International Law Commission

Last update: August 3, 2015

Analytical Guide to the Work of the International Law Commission

Law of the sea — régime of the territorial sea

See also: Summary | Texts and Instruments

Mandate

Studies undertaken by the Secretariat and Reports of the Secretary-General

None

Reports of the Working Group or Sub-Committee

None

Reports of the Special Rapporteur

  • First report of the Special Rapporteur containing a "Draft Regulation" consisting of twenty-three articles, with commentaries. Main divisions of the draft regulation were: general questions; the extent of territorial seas; and the right of passage.
    • Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. J.P.A. François (4th session of the ILC (1952))
  • Set of revised draft articles with commentaries taking into account the comments of the Commission made during its fourth session, together with an addendum containing amendments and additions to the second report based on the comments prepared by a group of technical experts that met at the Hague from 14 to 16 April 1953.
    • Second report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. J.P.A. François (5th session of the ILC (1953))
  • A further revised draft regulation submitted by the Special Rapporteur including changes made in the light of the observations of a group of technical experts that met at the Hague from 14 to 16 April 1953.
    • Third report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. J.P.A. François (6th session of the ILC (1954))
  • Amendments proposed by the Special Rapporteur on the basis of observations received from Governments on the draft articles adopted by the Commission at its sixth session.
    • Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. J.P.A. François (7th session of the ILC (1955))
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on both the régime of the high seas and the régime of the territorial sea. Issues discussed included, the order of the chapters of the final report; the establishment of a central authority empowered to make regulations; settlement of disputes; contiguous zones and the continental shelf; regulation of fisheries; sedentary fisheries; points on which discussion was deferred at the seventh session; and omissions and ambiguities noted in contemporary publications, together with a summary of replies from Governments and conclusions of the Special Rapporteur.
    • Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. J.P.A. François (8th session of the ILC (1956))

Reports of the Drafting Committee

None

Comments by Governments

  • 5th session of the International Law Commission (1953)
    • Information and observations submitted by Governments regarding the question of the delimitation of the territorial sea of two adjacent States
  • 7th session of the International Law Commission (1955)
    • Comments by Governments on the provisional articles concerning the régime of the territorial sea adopted by the International Law Commission at its Sixth session in 1954
  • 8th session of the International Law Commission (1956)
    • Comments by Governments

Other

None

Reports of the International Law Commission

  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its second session, 5 June to 29 July 1950
    • Decision to include the topic in its list of priorities further to General Assembly resolution 374 (IV) of 6 December 1949.
    • Discussion in plenary: 71st meeting (19 July 1950)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its third session, 16 May to 27 July 1951
    • Decision to initiate work on the topic "régime of territorial waters" which it had previously selected for codification, and pursuant to the recommendation of the General Assembly in resolution 374 (IV) of 6 December 1949. Mr. François was appointed Special Rapporteur for this topic.
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its fourth session, 4 June to 8 August 1952
    • The Commission held a discussion on the basis of the report of the Special Rapporteur, which contained a "Draft Regulation" consisting of twenty-three articles, together with comments. It decided to use the term "territorial sea" in lieu of "territorial waters". It considered the questions of the juridical status of the territorial sea, of its bed and subsoil, and of the air above it; the breadth of the territorial sea; base line; and bays.
    • Discussion in plenary: 164th, 165th, 166th, 167th, 168th, 169th, 170th, 171st and 172nd meetings (16 to 25 July 1952)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its fifth session, 1 June to 14 August 1953
    • Consideration of the second report of the Special Rapporteur and the information and observations received from Governments was held over to the following session.
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its sixth session, 3 June to 28 July 1954
    • On the basis of the third report of the Special Rapporteur the Commission prepared several draft articles, together with commentaries, with a view to being submitted to Governments for commentary. The Commission also discussed the question of the breadth of the territorial sea, identifying nine different suggestions, and requested the views of Governments in this regard.
    • Discussion in plenary: 252nd, 253rd, 254th, 255th, 256th, 257th, 258th, 259th, 260th, 261st, 262nd, 263rd, 264th and 265th meetings (22 June to 9 July 1954), 271st, 272nd and 273rd meetings (19 to 21 July 1954), 277th, 278th, 279th, 280th and 281st meetings (26 to 28 July 1954)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its seventh session, 2 May to 8 July 1955
    • The Commission amended the draft articles on the basis of comments received from Governments, and attached commentaries explaining the amendments in substance. It also examined questions held over from its report of 1954 concerning the breadth of the territorial sea, bays, groups of islands and the delimitation of the territorial sea at the mouths of rivers. The amended draft articles were submitted to States for comment in anticipation of their projected inclusion in the final report of the Commission at its eighth session.
    • Discussion in plenary: 295th meeting (20 May 1955), 299th meeting (26 May 1955), 306th, 307th, 308th, 309th, 310th, 311th, 312th, 313th, 314th, 315th, 316th, 317th, 318th, 319th and 320th meetings (7 to 27 June 1955), 324th and 325th meetings (1 July 1955), and 328th and 329th meetings (6 and 7 July 1955)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its eighth session, 23 April to 4 July 1956
    • The Commission examined replies from twenty-five governments, together with a further report from the Special Rapporteur. After careful study of these replies, it drew up a final report in which it incorporated some of the points made, and grouped together all the rules it adopted concerning the high seas, the territorial sea, the continental shelf, the contiguous zone and the conservation of the living resources of the sea. All the draft provisions were recast so as to constitute a single coordinated and systematic body of rules. A comprehensive set of seventy-three draft articles with commentaries was adopted and submitted to the General Assembly with the recommendation that the Assembly convene an international conference of plenipotentiaries.
    • Discussion in plenary: 333rd, 334th and 335th meetings (25 to 27 April 1956), 361st, 362nd, 363rd, 364th, 365th, 366th, 367th and 368th meetings (6 to 15 June 1956), and 379th and 381st meetings (2 and 4 July 1956)

General Assembly Action

  • Resolution 798 (VIII) of 7 December 1953
    • The Assembly decided not to deal with any aspect of the régime of the high seas or of the régime of territorial waters until all the problems involved had been studied by the International Law Commission and reported upon by it to the General Assembly.
 
  • Resolution 899 (IX) of 14 December 1954
    • The Assembly requested the Commission to devote the necessary time to the study of all the aspects of the topic (law of the sea) in order to complete its work and submit its report in time for the General Assembly to consider them as a whole, in accordance with resolution 798 (VIII), at its eleventh session in 1956.
 

Final Outcome

International Law Commission (8th session, 1956)

  • Recommended the summoning of an international conference of plenipotentiaries to examine the law of the sea, taking account not only of the legal but also of the technical, biological, economic and political aspects of the problem, and to embody the results of its work in one or more international conventions or such other instruments as it may deem appropriate.

General Assembly

  • Resolution 1105 (XI) of 21 February 1957
    • Decided to convoke an international conference of plenipotentiaries to examine the law of the sea, taking account not only of the legal but also of the technical, biological, economic and political aspects of the problem, and to embody the results in one or more international conventions. It also recommended that the conference study the question of land-locked countries, as established by the international practice of treaties.1
 

1 The United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea met at Geneva from 24 February to 27 April 1958, resulting in the adoption of four separate conventions: the Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone (United Nations, Treaty Series, vol.516, p. 205); the Convention on the High Seas (United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 450, p. 11); the Convention on Fishing and Conservation of the Living Resources of the High Seas (United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 559, p. 285); and the Convention on the Continental Shelf (United Nations, Treaty Series, vol.499, p311). These have been superseded by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (courtesy of the Oceans and Law of the Sea web site).