International Seabed Authority (ISA)

Reference work entry
Part of the The Statesman's Yearbook book series (SYBK)

The ISA is an autonomous international organization established under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of 1982 and the 1994 Agreement relating to the implementation of Part XI of the UNCLOS. It came into existence on 16 Nov. 1994 and became fully operational in June 1996.

The administrative expenses are met from assessed contributions from its members. Membership numbered 168 in Feb. 2017; the budget for the biennium 2015–16 was US$15,743,143.

The UNCLOS covers almost all ocean space and its uses: navigation and overflight, resource exploration and exploitation, conservation and pollution, fishing and shipping. It entitles coastal states and inhabitable islands to proclaim a 12-mile territorial sea, a contiguous zone, a 200-mile exclusive economic zone and an extended continental shelf (in some cases). Its 320 Articles and nine Annexes constitute a guide for behaviour by states in the world’s oceans, defining maritime zones, laying down rules for drawing sea boundaries, assigning legal rights, duties and responsibilities to States, and providing machinery for the settlement of disputes.

Organization. The Assembly, consisting of representatives from all member states, is the supreme organ. The 36-member Council, elected by the Assembly, includes the four largest importers or consumers of seabed minerals, four largest investors in seabed minerals, four major exporters of the same, six developing countries representing special interests and 18 members from all the geographical regions. The Council is the executive organ of the Authority. There are also two subsidiary bodies: the Legal and Technical Commission (currently 24 experts) and the Finance Committee (currently 15 experts). The Secretariat serves all the bodies of the Authority and under the 1994 Agreement is performing functions of the Enterprise (until such time as it starts to operate independently of the Secretariat). The Enterprise is the organ through which the ISA carries out deep seabed activities directly or through joint ventures.

Activities. In July 2000 the ISA adopted the Regulations for Prospecting and Exploration for Polymetallic Nodules in the Area. Pursuant thereto, it signed exploration contracts with eight contractors who have submitted plans of work for deep seabed exploration. These are: Institut Français de Recherche pour l’Exploitation de la Mer (IFREMER) and Association Française pour l’Etude de la Recherche des Nodules (AFERNOD), France; Deep Ocean Resources Development Co. Ltd (DORD), Japan; State Enterprise Yuzhmorgeologiya, Russian Federation; China Ocean Minerals Research and Development Association (COMRA); Interoceanmetal Joint Organization (IOM), a consortium sponsored by Bulgaria, Cuba, Czech Republic, Poland, Russia and Slovakia; the government of the Republic of Korea; the Republic of India; and the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources, Germany.

Workshops are held on a range of topics, normally once a year. In the past these have included: environmental management needs for exploration and exploitation of deep seabed minerals; a standardized system of data interpretation; and prospects for international collaboration in marine environmental research.

  • Headquarters: 14–20 Port Royal St., Kingston, Jamaica.

  • Website:

  • Secretary-General: Michael W. Lodge (United Kingdom).

Publications. Handbook 2013.—Selected Decisions and Documents from the Authority’s Sessions.—various others.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2018

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