The purpose of this project is to conduct a comprehensive study of international maritime law regarding new uses of the marine space and their opportunities for developments.


The roots of maritime law are ancient. Human activities at sea developed with navigation; maritime law is the result of this technical evolution. But these activities at sea are changing: it is no longer only to transport (merchant navy), to fish shellfish and fish or for leisure activities (boating). The current issue is that of exploitation of energy and the mineral resources of the seabed. Premises, platforms are not ships and their workers are not seafarers: what are they? International law of the sea and maritime activities comprises more and more international conventions specific to hydrocarbons and to dangerous goods. The question is not that of a void, but an excessive variety of rules and legal systems, a question of fundamental concepts, beyond the multiplication of international conventions.

National laws evolve and adapt to technological changes, because States aim to regulate human activities at sea, if only for reasons of pollution prevention and therefore safety and security. Are these national rights evolving similarly so that international harmonization will be easy or are these developments disparate? For what extend can we design bases, concepts, principles for civilized human activities at sea that future technological innovations will make possible? The fight against illegal activities at sea is possible through the development of means of surveillance and inter-State cooperation. However, these changes seem to be impeded by the current framework of international law of the sea, resulting from the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea1. Universal skills are rare and certain States may not be cooperative. A collision on the high seas or in the Exclusive Economic Zone of a State may lead to impunity if the State of the flag does not exercise its jurisdiction or neglects its international obligations. It would seem that States supplying maritime labour do not participate in the protection of seamen and other workers at sea. Is it possible or desirable that the jurisdiction of coastal States be deployed at sea to ensure a fair legal order?

These questions encompass Social Law, Economic Law through the competitive frame and Environmental Law. The diplomatic, economic and social issues at stake are very important, given the attempts of coastal States to appropriate the sea, referred to as creeping jurisdiction by the law of the sea. A comprehensive research project is therefore essential, involving lawyers and professional organizations - unions, public authorities, international institutions ... - but also researchers from other areas of the humanities as well as technical innovations, aiming at laying the foundations for an overhaul of the law applicable in maritime areas.


The goal is to restructure the Law of the Sea and Maritime Law, not only in its object but also in its concepts, in order to adapt to the technological developments of the twenty-first century. All producers of legal norms are concerned by this reflection, as the aim is to define the scope of their skills and their ability to consider a possible regulation. This work must go beyond national interests; it may interest international institutions such as the International Labour Organization (ILO), International Maritime Organization (IMO), the European Union and its Member States. The works of Patrick Chaumette in a national context have brought together in their deliberations since 2003 social partners such as ship-owners and seafarers' unions, the Maritime Administration and Labour Administration. It is important to continue this research by maintaining the involvement of actors in the field.

The innovative aspect of the project is its comparative framework, the search for common trends that could justify harmonization of the concepts and principles through a consensus. The work of the Taskforce on Maritime Employment and Competitiveness, December 2010 to April 2011 (DG Move, European Commission), which involved Patrick Chaumette, showed not only the weakness of statistical comparisons but also the diversity of practices and concepts concerning a sector which is supposedly familiar, i.e. international shipping. Thus a prospective thinking is necessary for all of the professional, legal and political decision-makers to anticipate technical developments and their legal framework.

The project will focus on four main issues, leading to a conceptual synthesis.

1 - The evolution of the rules applicable to the merchant navy. The enactment of the 2006 ILO Convention on Maritime Labour on August 20th, 2013, a so called consolidated convention, constituting the fourth corner stone of international maritime law, justifies such a project.

2 - The jurisdiction of States and illegal activities at sea: the status of marine areas, set by international law, governs the jurisdiction of coastal and local States. The European Atalanta mission in the Horn of Africa, to fight against piracy, shows that the development of illegal activities at sea requires new frameworks and the cooperation of state powers. A synthesis of these changes is needed, with the most eminent specialists.

3 - The exploitation of ocean resources, especially energetic ones, diversifies what can be considered an object at sea, such as platforms, and has led to legal constructions of operating contracts and subcontracts, questioning the status of work and the attachments to coastal States. A synthesis is also essential in this area, revealing the legal framework for maritime safety and pollution prevention, drawing the fabric of potential responsibilities in case of incidents. The considerable size of ocean liners also necessitates legal forms of management that need to be studied, even if these objects are ships in the classic sense. The international nature of ocean spaces allows for high elasticity in legal attachments. The sinking of the liner Costa Concordia, an exceptional incident, has highlighted the difficult cohesion of management and law on board.

4 - To plan for the future is essential, technically, economically, legally, with regards to offshore activities that do not exist today, but are quickly possible. Naval architects have files full of technically feasible projects. This projection is a right which seems like science fiction, like floating sea-villages. This reflection must be based on a realistic imagination: the objective is to identify the issues raised by these contingencies, then to conceptualize them.

Conceptual synthesis: Through and beyond the evolution of maritime shipping law, the first globalized sector, it would be preferable to approach a conceptual synthesis: what concepts can cover all human activities at sea, can help to define the common general principles Applicable to these activities, before specific regulations related to each of the various activities take place. It is then that the prospects for a new foundation of this branch of law become possible.