Publication Title

San Diego International Law Journal

Document Type



Despite the findings that marine casualty rates have "plummeted" and the safety record of the oil transport industry has "significantly improved," high visibility pollution incidents in the last decade like those involving the tankers Erika and Prestige off the coast of Europe, together with the chronic problems of illegal and unregulated fishing and dismal labor conditions for many seafarers led a United Nations-chartered consultative group of leading international organization representatives to conclude that there is an "urgent" need to improve State performance in the implementation and enforcement of the international maritime legal regime.

There is less agreement, however, in how to go about improving implementation and enforcement, given the problem’s multifaceted political, legal, environmental, economic, social and institutional dimensions. For some, the solution lies in better defining and enforcing the international requirement for a "genuine link" between flag States and their vessels, while also providing greater transparency of the true vessel ownership and control interests.

For others, they key is to provide technical and financial assistance to needy States, to help them develop the capacity to carry out their obligations under international maritime law. Expanding the jurisdiction of States other than the flag State (port States, coastal States and others with the capacity to take enforcement action) provides at least a partial solution for some.

Still others would turn to the international courts or empower one or more global or regional international organizations to assume an auditing and/or enforcement role against States that fail to meet their international obligations.

To weigh the merits of these and other reform proposals it is necessary first to identify the causes of the current problem and the context provided by the present legal regime established by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOS Convention), together with the pervasive role of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), as confirmed and expanded by the LOS Convention and other international instruments developed under IMO auspices.



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