Legal Articles

Need to draft the sea laws

Dr Justice Meena
Gomber, Chairperson, Gomber Education Foundation, organised the National Capacity Building Workshop on Law of the Sea, Admiralty Law, Maritime Trade, Technology and Security Concerns, at

RAFFLES UNIVERSITY, Neemrana (Rajasthan), on February 1-2, 2020. A report by HASAN KHURSHID.

Sir Isaac Newton said “I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me”. These are indeed the remarkable words of a great scientist which describes the infinite vastness of the oceans with most of it unknown even after humans have acquired so much scientific and exploratory knowledge. Hence, there is an imminent requirement of such multiple workshops in India.

Dr Justice Meena Gomber, Chairperson, Gomber Education Foundation, highlighting the need of the Centre for Maritime Studies in India which has a coastline of 8118 km and a potential for a sustainable ‘blue economy’ said, “In line with the UNSDG 14 if we can synchronize this development through effective ocean governance, at Raffles University, School of Law Centre, for maritime studies we shall make continuous improvements to develop a centre for excellence in the maritime domain”. She expressed her gratitude to the National Maritime Foundation (NMF) for the MoU and expressed her desire to achieve the set targets with exemplary success. She highlighted the fact that maritime trade is no longer a source to port business but has been integrated backwards into Internal Container Depots (ICDs) and warehouses. Therefore, laws need to be drafted to deal with these new situations and technological advancements in the domain.

Admiral Sunil Lanba, former Chief of the Naval Staff (India) congratulated Raffles University for organising this comprehensive workshop. He said that India is essentially a maritime nation and the Indian seaboard has been the vertex of intense maritime activity over centuries. He said while globalization has been key to India’s economic growth, the role of the seas has been equally important and often an unrealised aspect providing the basic economic sustenance. Contextually with international trade proving to be the important component of this process of globalization, the security parameters and concerns have gained primacy because seaborne commerce is open to vulnerabilities and requires protection. He discussed the potential linkages and contradictions between SAGAR and SAGARMALA and also highlighted the importance of the Information Fusion Centre at Gurugram towards addressing the maritime domain awareness in the Indian Ocean Rim (IOR) Association.

Vice Admiral Pradeep Chauhan highlighted the various nuances of the profession and laid great emphasis on the terminological exactitude that is very important for the legal profession amongst other relevant issues of the maritime domain.

The chief guest Dr Neeru Chaddha, Judge International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, Hamburg, Germany discussed the historical development and growth of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). She discussed the various dispute resolution forums available in Part XV of the Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC) 1982. She further discussed the salient features of the various judgments passed by the ITLOS in terms of fisheries cases, maritime delimitation issues, the prompt release of vessels, provisional measures and the like. The inaugural session was concluded by felicitating the guests and the singing of the National Anthem.

The technical sessions were spread over both days. The First session was by Capt Sarabjit Parmar, Executive Director, NMF on Historical Development of the (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS ) Regime. He took us through the various debates that ultimately shaped up the Law of the Sea convention 1982 and what it means for the maritime world today.

Dr Bimal Patel the DG of the Raksha Shakti University drew a parallel between the State of Rajasthan and various national and international development platforms for empirical and comparative studies within various aspects of the maritime domain.

Vice Admiral Pradeep Chauhan deliberated upon maritime zones, rights and duties of nations. He discussed the ramifications of international maritime law from Hugo Grotius’s Mare Liberum to Selden’s Mare Clausum. He explained how maritime zones are delineated and the various kinds of baselines issues. He also discussed the concepts of freedom of navigation and the common heritage of mankind issues.

Dr Vijay Sakhuja spoke on the concept of nationality of ships and the integral issue of a genuine link between the shipowner and the flag as envisaged in the Law of the Sea Convention(LOSC) 1982. He discussed about stateless ships and related challenges and threats.

Commander Nandakumar Das spoke on the Indian Ocean Region from a seafarer’s perspective. He highlighted the immediate threats and opportunities in the region on a temporal and spatial scale with practical illustrations.

Commander Anand Kumar spoke on the important aspects of illegal unreported unregulated fishing and how it has become a serious issue in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of various states causing a serious breach of the convention. Mr. Suriya Narayanan gave an incredible insight into the domain of Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and future of maritime space.

Dr Vijay Sakhuja and Dr Madhumitta Kothari highlighted the important issues under maritime infrastructure and contracts with special emphasis in the Belt and Road (BRI) concept whereby China is trying to establish its hegemony both on land and sea and unknowingly countries are entering into debt traps created by China. Underwater cultural heritage is also an area addressed by Dr Vijay Sakhuja and Dr Madhumitta where India is yet to draft its legislation for the protection of heritage and historical remains below the water level.

Overall, this workshop had participants from the length and breadth of India who had an extremely enlightening experience and who are left with food for thoughts, future deliberations and the immense scope of research opportunities.

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