International Seabed Association
1) About the International Seabed Authority
The International Seabed Authority is an autonomous international organization established under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 1994 Agreement relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Authority is the organization through which States Parties to the Convention in accordance with the regime for the seabed and ocean floor and subsoil thereof beyond the limits of national jurisdiction (the Area) established in Part XI and the Agreement organize and control activities in the Area, particularly with a view to administering the resources of the Area.
The Authority, which has its headquarters in Kingston, Jamaica, came into existence on 16 November 1994, upon the entry into force of the 1982 Convention. The Authority became fully operational as an autonomous international organization in June 1996. Meetings of the Authority are held at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.
INTER-MINISTERIAL STANDING COMMITTEE OF THE INTERNATIONAL SEABED IN NIGERIA
Nigeria is a member and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency warehouses the Nigerian Secretariat making it imperative for the Agency to participate in the annual sessions. The Secretariat comprises relevant Ministries, Departments and Agency connected to the functions of the Authority since the country is yet to establish its Seabed Authority.
Nigeria was elected into the council in 2011 for a term of four years. Nigeria has a permanent mission to the Authority in Jamaica, with an Alternate representative in the Commission of Ambassador Olatokunbo Kamsom who is the current High Commissioner in Jamaica while the Director-General, Ziakede Patrick Akpobolokemi is the alternate Permanent Representative.
2) Member states
There are one hundred and sixty-six (166) members of the International Seabed Authority as at 13 August 2013.
3) Functions and activities of the Authority
- A principal function of the Authority is to regulate deep seabed mining.
- Ensuring that the marine environment is protected from any harmful effects which may arise during mining activities, including exploration.
- formulation of the Regulations for Prospecting and Exploration for Polymetallic Nodules with the collaboration of the respective responsibilities of seabed explorers and the Authority in order to ensure
- environmentally sustainable development of seabed mineral resources.
- As part of its substantive work programme, the Secretariat of the Authority also carries out detailed resource assessments of the areas reserved for the Authority
- Maintains a specialised Database (POLYDAT) of data and information on the resources of the international seabed area
- Monitors the current status of scientific knowledge of the deep sea marine environment as part of its ongoing development and formulation of the Central Data Repository.
- The Authority also has the responsibility to promote and encourage marine scientific research in the international seabed area and to disseminate the results of such research.
- Conduct of seminars and workshops to sensitize countries on the activities of the Authority and its Importance.
- Provides database on National Legislation with respect to activities in the area.
The Authority has since commenced activities in the Area. The current areas of exploration are:
a. Polymetalic Nodules Exploration Areas in the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone
b. Polymetalic Nodules and Polymetallic Sulphides exploration areas in the Indian zone
c. Polymetallic Sulphides exploration areas in the Mid- Atlantic Ridge.
ORGANS OF THE AUTHORITY
1) THE SECRETARIAT AND FUNCTIONS
Mr. Nii Allotey Odunton of Ghana was elected Secretary-General on 4 June 2008 at the Authority`s 14th Session at its headquarters in Kingston. He has since 1996 been Interim Director-General and Programme Coordinator of the Authority. He was Deputy to the Secretary-General prior to his election. The secretariat consists of three offices as follows:
The Office of Resources and Environment Monitoring (OREM) is the economic arm of the Authority`s Secretariat providing scientific and technical inputs in the preparation of rules, regulations and procedures.
It is also responsible for the development and maintenance of information technology facilities to support needs of the Authority and the central data repository resources of the international seabed area and endeavours to promote and encourage the conduct of marine scientific research in the Area, producing and distributing publications on the work of the Authority and monitoring trends and developments of deep seabed mining activities relating to the prospecting and exploration of the Area including areas reserved for the Authority.
The Office of Administration and Management (OAM) provides general administrative and management support to the Secretariat. Its functions include financial management and control, preparation of proposed budgets, assessment of contributions of member States, recruitment of staff and contractors, procurement of goods and services, personnel management and security.
The Office of Legal Affairs (OLA) provides legal advice relating to the substantive work of the Authority as well as secretariat services to the organs of the Authority, including preparation of official documentation and liaison with Department of Conference Services of the United Nations. In addition, it provides general legal services to the Secretary-General and Secretariat of the Authority. One of the primary responsibilities of OLA is to work with the eight contractors for exploration for polymetallic nodules to ensure that contractual obligations are met and that necessary reports are submitted in a timely manner to the Legal and Technical Commission.
2) THE ASSEMBLY AND FUNCTIONS
This is the Authority`s legislative body and `supreme organ` with the power to establish general policies. Its membership is composed of all parties to the Law of the Sea Convention, numbering 165 States and the European Community as at 14 August 2013.
The Assembly also has the following powers:
• Election of members of the Council and other bodies, as well as the Secretary-General, who heads the Secretariat;
• It sets the two-year budgets of the Authority as well as the rates by which members contribute towards the budget, based on the assessment scale established by the United Nations for that body’s activities;
• Following adoption by the Council, it approves the rules, regulations and procedures that the Authority may establish from time to time, governing prospecting, exploration and exploitation in the Area. The Assembly took its first such action in 2000 by approving Regulations on Prospecting and Exploration for Polymetallic Nodules in the Area, as drawn up by the Council;
• It examines reports from other bodies, notably the annual report by the Secretary-General on the work of the Authority. This periodic examination gives members the opportunity to comment and make proposals on any aspect of the Authority’s work
The Convention also assigns several other powers to the Authority, which will come into play once deep-sea mineral exploitation gets under way. These include decisions on the equitable sharing of financial and other economic benefits deriving from activities in the Area, and on compensation or other economic adjustments to developing countries whose export earnings from their land-based mineral extraction are diminished by seabed production.
3) THE COUNCIL AND FUNCTIONS
The Council is the executive organ of the Authority and consists of 36 members elected by the Assembly. Its functions are as follows:
• The Council establishes specific policies in conformity with the Convention and the general policies set by the Assembly.
• It supervises and coordinates implementation of the elaborate regime established by the Convention to promote and regulate exploration for and exploitation of deep-sea minerals by States, corporations and other entities. Under this system, no such activity may legally take place until contracts have been signed between each interested entity and the Authority.
• The Council`s task is to draw up the terms of contracts, approve contract applications, oversee implementation of the contracts, and establish environmental and other standards.
• It approves 15-year plans of work in the form of contracts, in which governmental and private entities spell out the mining activities they intend to conduct in precisely defined geographical areas assigned to them.
• It exercises control over activities in the Area, and supervises and coordinates implementation of the seabed provisions of the Convention.
• It adopts and applies provisionally, pending approval by the Assembly, the rules, regulations and procedures by which the Authority controls prospecting, exploration and exploitation in the Area. Its initial set of regulations, adopted by consensus in 2000 and covering prospecting and exploration for polymetallic nodules, is intended as the first part of a mining code that will eventually deal also with exploitation and with other deep-sea mineral resources. The Council has begun work on a second set of regulations, concerning cobalt crusts and metal-bearing sulphides.
• In cases where an environmental threat arises from seabed activities, it may issue emergency orders to prevent harm, including orders to suspend or adjust operations.
• It plays a role in various aspects of the regular functioning of the Authority, for example by proposing candidates for Secretary-General, reviewing and recommending the Authority’s budget for approval by the Assembly, and making recommendations to the Assembly on any policy matter.
The Council will also assume additional responsibilities once deep-sea mining commences in earnest. These include the issuance of directives to the Enterprise, action (including compensation) to protect land-based mineral producers in the developing countries from adverse economic effects of seabed production, and the establishment of mechanisms for a staff of inspectors who would ensure compliance with the Authority`s regulations and contracts.
4) THE COMMITTEE AND FUNCTIONS
The ISA consists of three committees:
The Finance Committee
The Finance Committee oversees the financing and financial management of the Authority. It consists of 15 members elected by the Assembly for a period of 5 years taking into account equitable geographical distribution among regional groups and representation of special interests and has a central role in the administration of the Authority’s financial and budgetary arrangements. The Commission elected Olav Myklebust (Norway) as Chairman of the Committee.
Members are expected to have qualifications relevant to financial matters who are involved in make recommendations on financial rules, regulations and procedures of the organs of the Authority, its program of work as well as the assessed contributions of its member states.
The Legal and Technical Commission
The Legal and Technical Commission (LTC) is an organ of the Council of the International Seabed Authority and currently consists of 25 members who are elected by the Council for a period of 5 years on the basis of personal qualifications relevant to the exploration, exploitation and processing of mineral resources, oceanography, economic and/or legal matters relating to ocean mining and related fields. In 2013, the Commission elected Russell Howorth as its Chairman and Christian Reichert as Vice Chairman. Nigeria has a representative in the Committee, Dr Adesina Adegbie who was elected into the Committee in 2011.
The Commission is entrusted with various functions relating to activities in the deep seabed area including the review of applications for plans of work, supervision of exploration or mining activities, assessment of the environmental impact of such activities and provide advice to the International Seabed Authority`s Assembly and Council on all matters relating to exploration and exploitation of non-living marine resources (such as polymetallic [manganese] nodules, polymetallic sulphides and cobalt crusts).
The Credentials Committee
The credentials committee consists of a group of countries elected at the Assembly of the Authority. At each session, it elects member countries into the Committee. Nigeria at this current session was elected into the Committee. It is the responsibility of the Committee to examine the credentials of the representatives participating at each sessions of the Assembly, accept the credentials and recommend to the Assembly for adoption.
Africa as a continent need to realise the importance deep seabed mining as western countries are gradually exploring the mineral resources deposited at the deep sea bed designated as the `AREA` which is for the benefit of all mankind.
Accordingly, Nigeria needs to be in the driving seat especially in Africa if we want to secure its `area` in the deep seabed as resources found in the area is gradually gaining global recognition and importance hence the report of the receipt of various applications from the western world to explore and exploit these resources.
In order to achieve this, yearly sensitization programmes and workshops need to be organised to inform the general public and relevant stakeholders on the various resources found in the seabed and their uses and future importance, the functions and activities of the international seabed authority and the benefit of keying into deep seabed mining for the economic benefit of individuals, organisations and the government.
Secondly, there is the need to establish a Seabed Authority which would consist of identified and relevant MDA`s and also recruitment of candidates with technological and scientific expertise within the relevant fields in line with the activities of the Authority and formulation of national legislation in line with the activities of the Authority.
Furthermore, training of personnel would be required in collaborations with the Authority or organised by the Interministerial standing Committee in Nigeria.
In order to at least secure the resources in the deep seabed, it is necessary to deposit an application within the authority as that would suffice to secure the interest in the area for deep seabed mining for the country.