Kenya and UNCLOS

author:River and sea rights


【Abstract】 Under the background of economic globalization, marine resources have increasingly become an important source of resources for national development. Therefore, the correct demarcation of the baseline, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the territorial sea is the basis for the protection of national resources and an important guarantee for national resources. This paper elaborates on the current situation of the international law of the sea, analyzes and studies the division of the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf in combination with the relevant national conditions of Kenya, and looks forward to the future development direction of international law.

【Keywords】 Kenya exclusive economic zone continental shelf law of the sea


The ocean is rich in water resources, which is responsible for the operation of the global water circulation system, and affects and even determines global climate change. Moreover, the ocean is rich in biological resources and mineral resources, and the mineral proportion of deep-sea manganese nodules is an almost endless treasure. Therefore, marine resources have an increasing resource value for the country. Not only that, as a country along the "Belt and Road", Kenya's maritime transportation value plays a huge role in sustainable economic development in the future. Therefore, based on the importance of the oceans to Kenya's sustainable development, the continuous enrichment and improvement of the law of the sea will be an important topic for Kenya's development.

Overview of the law of the sea

(i) Status of developments in the law of the sea

The international law of the sea is a general term for the legal regime of various maritime areas and the principles and rules governing relations between States in various areas of the use of the oceans. It is an important part of national law and has the general characteristics of national law. International custom and international treaties are the main sources of international law of the sea. The initial development of the international law of the sea was to regulate maritime relations between States and resolve conflicts and disputes between States arising from issues or rights and interests in marine resources. Later, with the rapid development of science and technology, it played an increasingly important role in the handling of international affairs. Today, with the continuous development of globalization, maritime trade has made tremendous development, and in order to promote and protect maritime trade, maritime international law has been continuously enriched and improved in practical applications.

(ii) New trends in the development of the law of the sea

1. The protection of the marine environment is the obligation of all countries in the world, and at the Third Conference on the Law of the Sea, all countries jointly clarified their rights at sea, which effectively promoted the management and maintenance of marine resources and the environment by all countries, effectively prevented unnecessary conflicts and disputes, and was conducive to the peaceful development of maritime affairs internationally. Article 192 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, formulated at the meeting, clearly states that all countries have the obligation to "protect and preserve the marine environment" and clearly stipulates that while utilizing marine resources, each country shall, while making use of marine resources, formulate domestic laws in accordance with international law to strengthen the protection of the marine environment and take all necessary measures to prevent pollution of the marine environment.

From unilateral targeting of ship pollution to comprehensive control of pollution sources, the international law of the sea was first formulated to solve marine oil pollution accidents caused by ships. Since the 1980s, people have gradually realized the importance of environmental protection, so more and more international conventions have classified all sources of pollution that may cause pollution of the international marine environment and strengthened the comprehensive protection of the international marine environment. The international marine environmental protection law has also developed from the previous only targeting of certain polluting substances from specific sources to the development of comprehensive control of various pollution sources. The growing importance of international organizations and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea have established the importance of competent international organizations in the protection of the international marine environment. With the continuous establishment of inter-State and intergovernmental world organizations and the increasingly important role they play in the world, all countries in the world should actively participate in such international organizations and participate in the management of international affairs. At the same time, States have an obligation to implement the regimes developed by these international organizations and to cooperate with them in the completion of their domestic legislation.

Basic information on Kenya

Kenya is one of the birthplaces of mankind, located in eastern Africa, and the industry is mainly livestock. The coastal area is a plain area, and the rest of the area is a plateau area. The country is rich in mineral deposits, and Gilgill is one of the largest diatomite mines in the world. Kenya is one of the "Belt and Road" countries, and the future development of the country will take marine resources as the starting point, vigorously develop maritime trade, and lead the country's economic upgrading through the construction of the Belt and Road. Since the importance of marine resources in national development is self-evident, the issue of the ownership of marine resources has also become one of the key issues in disputes between countries. In 2014, Somalia brought Kenya to the International Court of Justice over the delimitation of maritime boundaries in the Indian Ocean, with no result. As marine resources play an increasingly important role in the future development of the country, it is of great importance to protect the country's maritime rights and interests.

3. The issue of the limits of the exclusive economic zone

(i) Status of Kenya's exclusive economic zone

Kenya, in its declaration to the International Convention on the Seas, entered a reservation to article 74 of the Convention, which means "a unilateral declaration, however worded or named, made by a State when signing, ratifying, accepting, approving or acceding to a treaty, which purports to exclude or modify the legal effect of certain provisions of the treaty at the time of its use in respect of that State". Article 74 of UNCLOS deals with the delimitation of the exclusive economic zones of States with opposite or adjacent coasts. The delimitation of the exclusive economic zone is a prerequisite for fulfilling the obligations of the exclusive economic zone and enjoying its rights.

(ii) Development of exclusive economic zones

With the development of the international community, exchanges between countries have become more frequent and their ties have become closer and closer. The importance of maritime interests has led countries to pay more and more attention to the development of maritime directions, which has also led to an increasing number of disputes between coastal States over maritime rights and interests. In reality, the continental shelves of many countries overlap, and in order to protect the maximization of their own interests, countries do not give in to each other, conflicts between countries have been repeated for years, and although they have been mediated, there are still many factors of instability, which is very inconsistent with the current international environment of peaceful development. At this time, the exclusive economic zone came into being, and its role was actually similar to the fishing area of previous countries. At the 1982 conference, after a fierce debate between countries, the exclusive economic zone regime finally entered the arena of the law of the sea. In the future, with the widespread recognition of exclusive economic zones, it will become more and more meaningful to clarify the scope of rights of countries in exclusive economic zones, which is also an important issue for the future development of exclusive economic zones in the law of the sea.

Delimitation of the continental shelf

(i) Problems in the delimitation of the continental shelf

Because of the way in which EEZs are declared and obtained, and in the actual delimitation, there are more adjacent or opposite EEZs, so there are many factors involved in the demarcation, which is prone to disputes; However, in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and other international laws of the sea, the criteria and methods for delimitation of exclusive economic zones have not yet been clearly and specifically defined, so disputes arising from the delimitation of adjacent or opposite exclusive economic zones have arisen from time to time, and the difficulty and complexity of delimitation have arisen. In fact, in the midst of disputes between different countries, there are unique problems in economic factors, historical rights, historical fishing rights, geographical factors and island issues, which have their own particularities. Therefore, international law cannot exhaust the various methods of demarcation and dispute settlement schemes, nor can it unrealistically formulate uniform criteria for the delimitation of exclusive economic zones and more specific rules for delimitation. In current practice, only by resolutely upholding the principle of fairness in different disputes can we ensure the interests of all parties and resolve the contradictions of all parties to the greatest extent. Therefore, when delimiting the boundaries of adjacent or opposite exclusive economic zones along the coast, it is necessary to take the principle of fairness as the fundamental starting point and foothold, consider all relevant circumstances and special factors, and combine different actual and realistic situations to create specific delimitation methods, so as to reach a final delimitation agreement to the satisfaction of all parties.

(ii) Status of the delimitation of the limits of the continental shelf in Kenya

At present, the issue of the delimitation of the exclusive economic zone between Kenya and its surrounding maritime neighbours is particularly prominent, and there have been reservations about the way in which the international law of the sea is delimited. With regard to the delimitation of the continental shelf, Kenya has been stepping up its efforts to complete it as soon as possible, in order to better resolve the current issue of the delimitation of the continental shelf, maintain the balance of interests between it and its neighbors in the exclusive economic zone, and thus safeguard Kenya's maritime rights and interests to the greatest extent. Since the Belt and Road Initiative was proposed, China has successively provided technical assistance for the delimitation of the continental shelf to Nigeria, Mozambique, Seychelles, Madagascar, Mauritius, Zanzibar, Cameroon, Ghana, Angola and Kenya. In the future, Kenya will continue to step up the delimitation of the continental shelf in order to protect Kenya's legitimate rights and interests.

National and international developments in the law of the sea

(i) The substance of national law

The essence of the entire international law of the sea is the provisions on the struggle and decline of maritime rights and interests between coastal interests and high seas interests, and between developing countries and developed countries. The struggle for rights and interests is always the main theme. In general, most developing coastal interests hope to use the international law of the sea to expand their rights over the seas and seas, thereby compensating for their lack of naval strength. The powerful want to achieve greater benefits through the international law of the sea. This has created a fundamental conflict in the international law of the sea.

(ii) Law of the Sea in Kenya

In order to effectively safeguard its maritime rights and interests, Kenya should take the following countermeasures: First, it should sum up Kenya's previous gains and losses and lessons learned in the negotiation process of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Second, it is necessary to deeply analyze Kenya's national interests, correctly understand its advantages and shortcomings on the maritime issue, and position itself reasonably in the pattern of international maritime interests. It is necessary to regard the insistence on safeguarding coastal rights and interests as the main contradiction and the development of the interests of the high seas as a secondary contradiction. Therefore, with regard to the future revision of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Kenya should, first, safeguard coastal rights and interests as much as possible, secondly strive for the interests of the high seas, and finally, fulfill its corresponding international obligations, and play a role commensurate with Kenya's international status in establishing and maintaining a just and reasonable international maritime legal order.


The oceans are extremely important for the development of countries and are important resources that cannot be abandoned. Therefore, Kenya should follow the development trend of the international law of the sea, continue to cater to the mainstream concept of international development, establish friendly and cooperative relations with more countries, protect its maritime sovereignty, and lay a solid foundation for sustainable development in the future.

References[1] Li Yong and Zhang Lina: On the Priority Role of Historical Rights in Treaty Law in Maritime Delimitation[J].New Oriental.2018(05)[2] Pei Zhaobin and Yang Siting: Managing the Sea according to Law: The Path Choice of Safeguarding Maritime Rights and Interests[J].Dalian Ocean University Law School[3] Wang Qi, Ji Linlin: The functional role, content representation and construction path of marine discourse power[J].Journal of Ocean University of China (Social Science Edition).2017(01)[4] Wang Huan: Research on the issue of control rights in the contiguous zone[J].Graduate School of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences[5] Hu Ming: What rules need to be improved in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea[J].World Knowledge.2019(23)

Kenya and UNCLOS

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