International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea

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International Maritime Tribunal

Logo of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea
English name International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS)
French name Tribunal international du droit de la mer (TIDM)
Seat of the organs Hamburg , GermanyGermanyGermany 
Chair Judge Jin-Hyun Paik (President of the International Tribunal for the Sea) Korea SouthSouth Korea 
Official and working languages

English and French


October 1, 1996

Upper organization

United NationsU.N. United Nations
View of the Elbe, Schröder's villa on the left

The International Tribunal (ITLOS; English International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) ; French tribunal international du droit de la mer (TIDM) ) is an international court , which on the basis of the Convention (UNCLOS) of the United Nations from 10 December 1982 operates as an independent organization in the UN system.


The convention came into force on November 16, 1994 and the ISGH was founded on October 1, 1996 with its seat in the Hamburg district of Nienstedten . The UN Conference on the Law of the Sea had already agreed on the Hamburg location on August 21, 1981 in Geneva. With UN resolution 51/204 of December 17, 1996, the ISGH was granted observer status at the General Assembly of the United Nations and thus guaranteed participation in meetings of the General Assembly when issues relating to the Tribunal for the Sea are discussed.


The Court of Justice has 21 judges who are elected for nine years by the 168 contracting parties to UNCLOS. Five judges each come from Africa and Asia, four judges each from Central and South America or Western Europe and three judges from Eastern Europe. The South Korean judge Jin-Hyun Paik has been President of the ISGH since October 2, 2017 . There are 36 employees from 24 countries. The President is the only one of you who is subject to residence in Hamburg, including diplomatic status. Court languages ​​are English and French.


The building was erected between 1997 and 2000 based on designs by the von Branca architectural office in Munich; The building was handed over on July 3, 2000 by handing over the keys to Kofi Annan , the then UN Secretary General. The construction cost was 123 million DM (80% was taken over by the Federal Republic of Germany, 20% by Hamburg, the operating costs were borne by the United Nations). When it was built, the listed Schröder villa was preserved and incorporated into the overall complex.


The courts named in Art. 287 Paragraph 1 a) - d) UNCLOS are responsible for disputes about the interpretation and application of UNCLOS, i.e. in addition to the ISGH also the International Court of Justice or an international arbitration tribunal . Which of these bodies is responsible for a dispute depends on the will of those involved, who have a right to vote.

If a dispute is transferred to the ISGH, however, there is general jurisdiction, i. H. the Court of Justice gives a comprehensive and final decision on the dispute before it. However, there is an exception to this principle for disputes in the area of deep-sea mining . The seabed chamber is solely responsible for this . Further restrictions are provided for in Articles 297 and 298 UNCLOS. An appellate - or appeal proceedings or referral to another court are not utilized.

While the International Court of Justice in The Hague is only responsible for disputes between states and in this respect represents competition for disputes under maritime law, the ISGH can also be invoked by private individuals and international organizations under certain conditions . It is therefore not only open to the parties to the Convention on the Law of the Sea. However, this possibility has not played a role in the work of the tribunal.

According to Art. 21 of the Statute of the Court of Justice , other international disputes can also be assigned to the ICJ. The prerequisite, however, is that there is a reference to the law of the sea.

Legal basis and binding effect

The legal basis of the Court of Justice is its statute, which was concluded as Annex VI to UNCLOS and is therefore part of UNCLOS (Art. 318 UNCLOS). According to this, the Court of Justice can be referred to by any contracting party to UNCLOS (Art. 20 para. 1 of the Statute); other states can refer to the Court of Justice in cases where UNCLOS allows this or if all states involved so agree (Art. 20 para. 2 of the Statute). The decisions are only binding between the parties to the dispute (Art. 33 (2) of the Statute). The law applied by the Court of Justice comprises UNCLOS itself and all other rules of international law that are compatible with UNCLOS (Art. 23 of the Statute and Art. 293 UNCLOS).



The Statute of the Court of Justice recognizes four different types of procedure: the main proceedings, the procedure on provisional measures, the procedure before the seabed chamber and the procedure for the clearance of ships. All types of procedures are subject to the principle of submission . Before the start of the proceedings, the judges first discuss questions that they want to ask the parties and then answer them either in writing or during the oral hearing. The proceedings before the ISGH are divided into two parts, the written preliminary proceedings and the oral hearing. The official languages ​​are English and French.

The individual types of procedure

Main proceedings

The main proceedings first require an application from one of the parties. The content-related requirements for this application are relatively high in relation to the ICJ . It must identify the plaintiff, the defendant (s) and the legal dispute and must also be signed by the plaintiff's representative. Since the ISGH can only negotiate a case with the consent of both parties, the consent of the defendant must be awaited before the start of the proceedings. In most cases, however, the parties agree in advance on the facts on which the negotiation is based and then submit them in writing.

In the next step, the court determines how many pleadings may be submitted after the parties have voted. When all the pleadings have been received by the court, the conclusion of the written procedure will be established and the oral procedure will proceed. The main proceedings are concluded with a judgment, which is read out in an oral hearing.

Interim measures procedure

The interim injunction procedure is regulated in Art. 290 UNCLOS. In these proceedings it is important to safeguard the interests of both parties until a decision in the main proceedings is reached. This is mainly due to the often long duration of the main proceedings. The preliminary injunction procedure does not begin until one of the parties applies. For example, the Court of Justice can also order measures to prevent serious environmental damage. Another important difference to the proceedings of other courts is that the ISGH can also issue interim orders in cases in which it has no jurisdiction in the main proceedings. Since it always takes a certain amount of time until an arbitration tribunal is set up, the ISGH is also left to temporarily secure interests in these cases. The decision in the preliminary injunction procedure is made by resolution .

Procedure before the seabed chamber

The procedure before the Seabed Chamber is regulated in Articles 86 et seq. Of the Statute and in Art. 187 UNCLOS. According to this, the seabed chamber is responsible for disputes that concern the use of the seabed . This particularly concerns disputes within the International Seabed Authority , between individual states and this authority, or only between states. In addition, the Chamber may provide advice to the Council and Assembly of the Seabed Authority.

Procedure for clearing ships

On the basis of Art. 292 UNCLOS the ISGH is responsible for procedures for the clearance of ships. These proceedings deal with situations in which a contracting state has detained a ship sailing under the flag of another contracting state, as well as its crew and cargo, and is not prepared to release it again in return for adequate bail. Since extensive economic considerations usually play a role here, the filing state does not have to - as is otherwise usual in international law - have exhausted the domestic legal process . Both the flag state and a shipping company or lawyer commissioned by it are entitled to apply . The Court of Justice has an obligation to deal with the application for release without delay . A decision must be made no later than 31 days after submitting the application.

Written procedure

The written procedure begins with the filing of the plaintiff's pleading . This is followed by the defendant's reply, to which the plaintiff can reply again, provided that the parties have agreed on this. The time between the filing of the application and the receipt of this pleading by the Court of Justice will be determined by the court in consultation with the parties.

Intermediate proceedings

After completion of the written procedure and before the start of the oral procedure, the judges are given a certain amount of time to study the files. Then they have to make a written statement to the President. The deadline for a written statement is significantly shorter for the temporary injunction and the procedure for the clearance of ships in order to be able to come to a decision quickly. On the basis of these statements, the President prepares a working paper. The aim of this interim procedure is to prepare for the oral hearing and the subsequent deliberations.


Before the start of the oral hearing, the President agrees with the parties on the order in which the arguments are to be presented and the time available for this. According to the principle of party equality, each side has the same amount of time available. Each party must nominate witnesses and / or experts for the arguments it has put forward . These can be in the negotiation in the cross-examination will be contacted by the other party and by the court. A record of the course of the oral hearing is drawn up, which can be corrected by the parties until the hearing is over. At the end of each negotiation, the parties must submit their requests both orally and in writing. After registering with the Rechtspfleger , listeners can take part in the negotiations.

Process closure

After the oral hearing is over, there is a consultation phase that can last several days. The simple majority of the judges decide. The drafting committee first prepares a draft decision, which is presented to the other judges in three readings . Judges who want to write a separate opinion or a dissenting opinion must announce this in the first reading. At the end of the third reading, the judgment is voted on by name.

Current members

The Japanese Shunji Yanai was President of the ISGH from 2011 to 2014
Country of origin Surname Taking office president Vice President
SenegalSenegal Senegal Tafsir Malick Ndiaye 1996
Cape VerdeCape Verde Cape Verde José Luis Jesus 1999 2008-2011
FranceFrance France Jean-Pierre Cot 2002
Trinidad and TobagoTrinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago Anthony Amos Lucky 2003
PolandPoland Poland Stanislaw Pawlak 2005
JapanJapan Japan Shunji Yanai 2005 2011-2014
TanzaniaTanzania Tanzania James L. Kateka 2005
South AfricaSouth Africa South Africa Albert J. Hoffmann 2005 2011-2014
China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China Gao Zhiguo 2008
AlgeriaAlgeria Algeria Boualem Bouguetaia 2008 2014-2017
Korea SouthSouth Korea South Korea Jin-Hyun Paik 2009 since 2017
ArgentinaArgentina Argentina Elsa Kelly 2011
MaltaMalta Malta David Attard 2011 since 2017
UkraineUkraine Ukraine Markijan Kulyk 2011
MexicoMexico Mexico Alonso Gómez-Robledo 2014
IcelandIceland Iceland Tomas Heiðar 2014
ParaguayParaguay Paraguay Óscar Cabello Sarubbi 2017
IndiaIndia India Neeru Chadha 2017
ThailandThailand Thailand Kriangsak Kittichaisaree 2017
RussiaRussia Russian Federation Roman Kolodkin 2017
NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands Liesbeth Lijnzaad 2017

The Chilean Ximena Hinrichs Oyarce has been working as Chancellor ( English Registrar ) at the Court of Justice since August 1, 2019 . She succeeded Philippe Gautier from Belgium, who held the office from 2001 to 2019.

See also


  • Christoph Franz Bornhorn: The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. Flagship or ghost saver? (= Experts provide information 1). Anikkänbrö and Knetemelk, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-9803911-5-9
  • Moritz Karg: IGH vs. ISGH. The relationship between two international dispute settlement bodies (= international law and foreign policy 66). Nomos-Verlags-Gesellschaft, Baden-Baden 2005, ISBN 3-8329-1445-5 (Also: Regensburg, Univ., Diss., 2005)
  • Wolfgang Vitzthum (Ed.): Handbook of the law of the sea . Beck, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-406-54635-8
  • Susanne Wasum-Rainer, Daniela Schlegel: The UNCLOS Dispute Settlement System: between Hamburg and The Hague . In: German Yearbook of International Law . 48, 2006, pp. 187-222
  • Sicco Rah, Tilo Wallrabenstein: The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and Its Future . In: Ocean Yearbook . 21, 2007, ISSN  0191-8575 , pp. 41-67
  • Considerably increased workload . In: Daily port report of July 12, 2012, p. 2, Seehafen-Verlag, Hamburg 2012, ISSN  2190-8753

Web links

Commons : International Tribunal for the Sea  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Court of Justice to Hamburg . In: Hansa - Schiffahrt - Schiffbau - Hafen , Vol. 118, No. 17, September 1981, p. 1194.
  3. Uschi Pfündner: visit to the International Tribunal in Hamburg. In: Rundschau Hohenfelder Bürgererverein from 1883 r. V., April / May 2020, p. 4.
  4. Karin Wiedemann: From the court of muses to the courthouse . A visit to the Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. In: MHR messages from the Hamburg Judges' Association . tape 2000 , no. 3 , September 15, 2000 ( ).
  5. ^ Rüdiger Wolfrum : The dispute settlement system of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. In: Vitzthum: Handbook of the Law of the Sea. 2006, para. 26th
  6. Part XV and Annex VI of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea of ​​1982
  7. Uschi Pfündner: visit to the International Tribunal in Hamburg. In: Rundschau Hohenfelder Bürgererverein from 1883 r. V., April / May 2020, p. 4.
  8. Article 54 (3) of the Rules of Procedure
  9. ^ Thomas A. Mensah : Provisional Measures in the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) . In: Journal for Foreign Public Law and International Law . Vol. 62, 2002, ISSN  0044-2348 , pp. 43-54
  10. Art. 290 para. 1 UNCLOS
  11. Art. 191 UNCLOS
  12. See Art. 111, 112 Rules of Procedure
  13. ↑ See section main proceedings
  14. On the whole: Rüdiger Wolfrum: The dispute settlement system of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea . In: Vitzthum: Handbook of the Law of the Sea . 2006, pp. 461-489

Coordinates: 53 ° 33 ′ 4 "  N , 9 ° 51 ′ 3"  E