Category: Conferences

International Conference on High Seas Governance: Gaps and Challenges


The international conference on High Seas Governance: Gaps and Challenges was held in conjunction with the Singapore Maritime Week 2017 (SMW). SMW is the leading maritime event in Singapore driven by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. SMW gathers the international maritime community in Singapore for a week of conferences, dialogues, exhibitions and social events in celebration of all things maritime. These events reflect the vibrancy and diversity of Singapore as a major international maritime centre.




The Centre for International Law (CIL) organised an International Conference on High Seas Governance: Gaps and Challenges on 24–25 April 2017 at the Orchard Parade Hotel, Singapore. The Conference was held in conjunction with the Singapore Maritime Week (22–28 April 2017). Associate Professor Robert Beckman, Head of CIL’s Ocean Law & Policy Programme, delivered the welcome speech. The Conference consisted of eight panels of leading international law experts and interdisciplinary academics, who reviewed the existing rules, assessed the current mechanisms and discussed ways to bridge the gaps in the governance of the high seas under UNCLOS. The Conference was attended by over 60 participants, including local and international academics, government officials and members of the shipping industry.


Conference Report


Panel 1 – Commentary by Nilufer Oral
Panel 1 – Presentation by Youna Lyons
Panel 2 – Commentary by Robert Beckman
Panel 2 – Presentation by Aldo Chircop
Panel 3 – Commentary by Anthony Wetherall
Panel 3 – Presentation by Gunther Handl
Panel 4 – Presentation by Erik Røsæg
Panel 4 – Presentation by Nick Gaskell
Panel 5 – Commentary by Bettina Boschen
Panel 5 – Presentation by Nilufer Oral
Panel 6 – Commentary by Youna Lyons
Panel 6 – Presentation by Karen Scott
Panel 7 – Presentation by Bettina Boschen
Panel 7 – Presentation by David Santillo
Panel 8 – Presentation by Robin Warner


The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is one of the most significant accomplishments of the international community in the 20th century. UNCLOS establishes a comprehensive set of principles and rules that are intended to regulate all uses of the sea and the exploration and exploitation of its resources in all areas of ocean space. UNCLOS is often referred to as “a constitution for the oceans” and has been almost universally accepted. As indicated in its preamble, UNCLOS is based on the fundamental idea that the problems of the oceans are closely interrelated and must be addressed as a whole. In most respects, UNCLOS has met the test of time and is as relevant today as it was when it entered into force in 1994.

Steps are being taken to address some of the gaps in the legal regime established in UNCLOS. In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly decided to develop an international legally binding instrument (ILBI) under UNCLOS on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ). A Preparatory Committee has been established to make substantive recommendations on the elements of a draft text. These negotiations are commonly referred to as the BBNJ negotiations.

Please click here to download the full eBrochure and programme.

dAmico shipSource: d’Amico ship High Endeavour on Singapore Straits


In this conference we explored some of the gaps in the governance of the high seas in UNCLOS. We examined the relationship between UNCLOS and other existing international instruments and mechanisms that protect the sensitive marine environment, and also explored trends in environmental policy and governance. Some of the issues we addressed in this conference may also have been discussed in the BBNJ negotiations. Chatham House Rule applied at the conference.


From NUS Centre for International Law
Robert BECKMAN, Head, Ocean Law and Policy Programme
J Ashley ROACH, Visiting Senior Principal Research Fellow
Youna LYONS, Senior Research Fellow
Anthony WETHERALL, Senior Research Fellow

From Distinguished Institutions
Eva Bettina BOSCHEN, PhD Associate, Netherlands Institute for the Law of the Sea, Utrecht University
Aldo CHIRCOP, Professor of Law, Canada Research Chair in Maritime Law & Policy, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University
Nick GASKELL, Professor of Maritime and Commercial Law, Marine and Shipping Law Unit (MASLU); TC Beirne School of Law; The University of Queensland
Günther HANDL, Professor, Tulane University Law School
Nicholas MAVRIAS, Senior Claims Executive, The Standard Club Asia Ltd
Nilüfer ORAL, Professor, Istanbul Bilgi University
Erik RØSÆG, Professor, Scandinavian Institute of Maritime Law, Oslo
David SANTILLO, Honorary Research Fellow (Greenpeace), University of Exeter
Karen Nadine SCOTT, Head of the School of Law, University of Canterbury
Robin WARNER, Professor, Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security (ANCORS), University of Wollongong