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ICS statement on the High Seas Treaty

7 March 2023

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) welcomes the historic breakthrough in finalising the text the landmark High Seas Treaty agreement achieved at the United Nations (UN) this weekend. Nearly 200 nation States took part in the discussions and while there is still some work to do before the text is officially adopted, the agreement on substance marks the culmination of nearly two decades of work.

ICS has been an active part of the discussions since 2016, ensuring that the international shipping community is engaged, its unique nature taken into account, and that governments understand the International Maritime Organization’s role as shipping’s global regulator. For international shipping, the matters which the convention is designed to address are within the remit of the IMO.

We are pleased that an agreement has been reached that should ensure that emerging high seas industries will now also be regulated through this convention. The agreement should also enhance cooperation and coordination between UN agencies and other global and regional regulators, promoting a holistic approach to the protection of marine biodiversity and ecosystems in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

The new agreement builds on the requirements to protect the marine environment contained in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). One of its important features is that it sets out a process to enable the establishment of cross-sectoral Marine Protected Areas and other area based management tools in the high seas and the underlying seabed. The agreement takes account of IMO’s role and the measures that emerge from it will complement existing regulations, with the detail of any measures that may be needed for ships to be discussed and agreed at IMO.

Guy Platten, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping, comments: “This outcome is the result of hard work over a number of years by a unique group of stakeholders all with the aim of creating a treaty to protect the high seas. I thank everyone for their dedication”.