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Unit information: International Law of the Sea in 2015/16

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Unit name International Law of the Sea
Unit code LAWDM0028
Credit points 30
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor Sir. Evans
Open unit status Not open




School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit examines the history and evolution of law of the sea, and in particular, the legal regime of the 1982 UN Convention. In particular, it examines the various zones within which maritime jurisdiction is exercised: the territorial sea, the contiguous zone, the exclusive economic zone, the continental shelf, the high seas and the deep sea bed. It explores and explains the legal regulation of a range of activities such as passage and resource exploration and exploitation, whilst at the same time considering the range of political factors that have shaped the development of the law. Particular attention is paid to the construction of baselines and to the delimitation of maritime zones in state practice and before the International Court of Justice. The regulation of fishing and the principles bearing upon the exercise of jurisdiction at sea are also focused upon. Particular attention is paid to interferences with the freedom of navigation on the high seas and with addressing piracy. The unit also discusses the dispute settlement mechanisms established under the law of the sea convention.


1. to understand the general principles and methods of interpretation of the UNCLOS

2. to understand the case-law of the ITLOS, ICJ, and Arbitral Tribunal, with regard to the law of the sea

3. to understand the particular features of the dispute settlement at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.

4. to be able to identify the legal problems of the law of the sea posed by complex factual situations and to understand how the applicable norms provide answers to such problems;

5. to discuss and understand the relationship between the legal concepts of the law of the sea and the geographical and geo-morphological configuration and concepts.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this unit, students are expected to be able to:

1. demonstrate a sound understanding of the fundamental concepts, principles, and methods of the law of the sea, including jurisdiction

2. show a good understanding of the nature of the legal and political disputes on the law of the sea

3. show an understanding, and make a reasoned critique, of the case-law of the ICJ, ITLOS, and Arbitral Tribunal with regard to the law of the sea, in particular with regard to the delimitation of maritime zones

4. show a good understanding of the evolution of the law of the sea, including the relationship between customary and treaty law of the law, as well as of relationship between UNCLOS with other legal regimes related to the law of the sea.

Teaching details

Two-hour seminars (ten)

Assessment Details

A 3-hour written exam (100%).

The assessment will assess all the Intended Learning Outcomes for this unit.

Formative - students should do one formative assessment and may do two.

Reading and References

1. Churchill/Lowe, Law of the Sea, 3rd edition, MUP 1999

2. Evans, International Law Documents, 12th edition, OUP, 2015

3. Rothwell & Stephens, The International Law of the Sea, Hart Publishing, 1st Edition, 2010

4. Tanaka, The International Law of the Sea, CUP, 2012

5. Rothwell and others, Oxford Handbook on the Law of the Sea, OUP 2015