Saturday, January 19, 2008

L.O.S.T. at sea


December 3, 2007

By Michael Rawlins

Presently, the Law of the Sea Treaty, derided by critics as "The LOST," is like an encrusted artifact on the ocean floor just waiting to be excavated. Since 1982, it has periodically resurfaced for cloaked Senate committee debate only to re-submerge in the heat of analysis. The salvagers –in this case the U.N. – have the treaty in their sounding crosshairs and merely await U.S. Senate confirmation before officially implementing their oceanic redistribution of wealth from the richer nations, i.e. the U.S., to the smaller ones.

Want proof of this socialist agenda? Just look at Article 82, Section 4, which states that the International Seabed Authority "shall distribute them (payments) to States … on the basis of equitable sharing criteria, taking into account the interests and needs of developing States, particularly the least developed … among them."

One needs only to go so far as the treaty's preamble to see that it could be used as a Marxist primer, with the words "an important contribution to the maintenance of peace, justice and progress for all peoples of the world." In fact, the 202 pages are filled with socialist code phrases, including "just and equitable economic order," "for the benefit of mankind as a whole" and "the common heritage of mankind."

As a career professional mariner, I recognize the need for free and orderly sea passage. I understand the U.S. military's support of the treaty on the grounds of seeking a legal framework to allow clear transit on, above and below straits. However, the military's tunnel-vision support is based strictly on the "right of innocent passage doctrine" and ignores numerous flaws to their own detriment.

Article 19 outlaws the practice or exercise of any kind of weapons in state territorial waters. What if a naval or commercial ship is boarded by pirates or terrorists in these waters? How can they defend themselves without first having to petition the International Seabed Authority, or ISA? For example, the Bab al-Mandab at the base of the Red Sea and the Malacca Straits in Southeast Asia are current hotspots of piracy. In 2003 alone, there were 445 reported incidents of ship attacks worldwide. Article 20 requires all unmanned vessels – even submarines used for mine detection- to transit territorial waters on the surface.

One tradition the U.N. is attempting to trample upon is the sovereignty of salvagers to bring up valuable artifacts from sunken treasures. Historically, wrecks on the international ocean floor have fallen under the doctrine of "finders, keepers." Private treasure hunters have been outstanding stewards of historical objects and if it weren't for them, they never would have seen the light of day. Now, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the U.N.'s watchdog body, anything more than 100 years old may only be recovered if it can be displayed in a public museum for perpetuity. With a cost of up to $50,000 per day for recovery operations, what is the incentive to find these glorious objects?

Marine scientists should be aware that, should the treaty come to pass, when working in international waters they would be de-facto employees of the U.N. In Article 144, the transfer of technology clause, the ISA has the authority to seize scientific research data and give it to other states under the power of eminent domain.

Article 150, the development of resources clause, allows the U.N. to play Uncle Hugo Chavez to oil and gas drilling companies by charging them a user fee and taxing their profits. The ISA has untrammeled power to socialize the seabed by deciding who it wants to extract resources. This is the equivalent of an international no-bid contract program. Iraq oil-for-food program, anyone? Do the accusations of Haliburton favoritism ring a bell?

Supporters claim it creates a global standard to protect living resources for future generations. However, under the conservation provisions, if nations do not harvest their entire allowable fish stocks within territorial waters, the surplus could be given to other nations, a policy that could result in forced overfishing and depletion of fish stocks.


On Oct. 31, 2007, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 17 to 4 to send the treaty to the full Senate for ratification. Though President Bush is pushing for its approval by year's end, it is not clear when that vote will take place; Spring of '08 appears likely. If it does pass, just know that a small, land-locked nation like Luxemburg and American adversary like Cuba will have as much power over the international seafloor as the U.S. – literally.

No comments: