The Law of the Sea and the Arctic Ocean

  • Claudia Cinelli


Rather than proposing new legal instruments for addressing the contemporary significant changes of the Arctic Ocean, both the 2008 Ilulissat Declaration and the 2010 Chelsea ministerial meeting reaffirm the five Arctic coastal States’ commitment to the Law of the Sea. Since then, several of them have strengthened their presence in the Arctic in order to protect their particular interests. Priority seems to be given to a selective application of the international norms that ensure the coexistence of coastal States in the Arctic Ocean, as well as the cooperation between them for enabling said coexistence. A good example would be the signing of the Treaty of 15 September 2010 between Norway and Russian Federation concerning maritime delimitation and cooperation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean. However, the applicable law in the Arctic Ocean should be the comprehensive existing Law of the Sea frameworks, including any norms that do not rely on the geographic location of States, and that promote cooperation for protecting the general interests of the international community, particularly for the benefit of mankind as a whole. Without precluding work on further developing some of the existing frameworks, attention will be paid to the need for a teleological interpretation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, in light of the new conditions or specificities of the Arctic Ocean.

Keywords: Law of the Sea (UNCLOS); Arctic Ocean; Sea-ice and Ice Islands; Trans-Arctic Passages; Arctic Outer Limits of the Continental Shelf; Arctic Maritime Zones beyond National Jurisdiction; Sub/Circumpolar Cooperation

Citation: Arctic Review on Law and Politics, vol. 2, 1/2011 p. 4–24. ISSN 1891-6252

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How to Cite
Cinelli, C. (2011). The Law of the Sea and the Arctic Ocean. Arctic Review, 2(1). Retrieved from
Original Articles
Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Arctic Ocean, Sea-ice and Ice Islands, Trans-Arctic Passages, Arctic Outer Limits of the Continental Shelf, Arctic Maritime Zones beyond National Jurisdiction, Sub/Circumpolar Cooperation