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ISA’s High-Level Visit to China Concludes with Renewed Support for Global Deep-Sea Research Agenda

ISA’s High-Level Visit to China Concludes with Renewed Support for Global Deep-Sea Research Agenda

On Friday, June 7, 2024, the Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority (ISA), H.E. Mr. Michael W. Lodge, concluded a five-day high-level visit to China.

In the first part of the visit, the Secretary-General met with H. E. Mr. Sun Shuxian, Vice-Minister, Ministry of Natural Resources of China, in Beijing, to exchange views on the progress of the work of ISA, particularly in relation to the discussions in the Council pertaining to the draft exploitation regulations for seabed minerals of the Area, the development of regional environmental management plans (REMPs), the activities carried out by the ISA-China Joint Training and Research Centre (JTRC) and the central role of ISA in leading the Global Deep-Sea Research Agenda embedded in the Action Plan for Marine Scientific Research in support of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (MSR Action Plan).

Taking note of the progress in the work of the Council, H.E. Mr. Sun Shuxian remarked, “The adoption of the draft exploitation regulations will provide clear rules and guidance on the deep-seabed exploitation activities to ensure the sustainable use of seabed resources and effective protection of the marine environment. China will continue to participate constructively in negotiating the draft exploitation regulations and work together with all relevant stakeholders.”

The Secretary-General also met with H.E. Mr. Miao Deyu, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs, to discuss the role of ISA in relation to the recent implementing Agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the Conservation (UNCLOS) and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas beyond National Jurisdiction. Several new areas of potential cooperation between China and ISA were also identified, particularly in relation to institutional governance, implementation of programmatic activities, deep-sea research and global ocean science-policy interface.

Stressing the significant achievements of ISA in the last few years, H.E. Mr. Miao Deyu reiterated the support of China for the work and mandate of ISA. “China will continue to support fully the work of ISA, including through its active participation in the negotiation of the draft exploitation regulations and the development of REMPs, providing more training opportunities to developing States through the ISA-China JTRC and contributing to the relevant voluntary trust funds of ISA.”

During the meeting, China also indicated its support and engagement to the Call for Action for ensuring the stewardship of the Area through deep-sea science, technology and innovation, becoming the twelfth Member of ISA to join the initiative, after Argentina, Bangladesh, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Jamaica, Malta, Mauritius, Nauru, Norway, Singapore, Tonga and the United Kingdom.

During his time in Beijing, Secretary-General Lodge signed a letter of cooperation between the ISA Secretariat and the Second Institute of Oceanography (SIO), strengthening their partnership in support of the implementation of the ISA MSR Action Plan and progress in deep-sea research projects, the work of the ISA Secretariat in preparation of expert workshops for the development of REMPs and the implementation of the ISA Data Management Strategic Roadmap 2023–2028.

The ISA Secretary-General also held productive meetings with three contractors sponsored by China: China Ocean Mineral Resources R&D Association, Beijing Pioneer Hi-Tech Development Corporation and China Minmetals Corporation. The discussions focused on the activities carried out by each of these contractors pursuant to their respective contracts, including, where applicable, a focus on training and capacity development data submission and management, environmental impact statement stakeholder consultation and the development of mining technologies.

On June 5, 2024, the Secretary-General travelled to Qingdao, where he was invited to deliver a keynote address at the Seventh International Symposium on Scientific and Legal Aspects of the Regimes of the Continental Shelf and the Area. Hosted by the China Institute for Marine Affairs and the SIO, the symposium gathered a number of international experts in the law of the sea and representatives of United Nations agencies and global bodies and, in particular, representatives of the other two institutions established by UNCLOS in the persons of the President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the Chair of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

Reflecting on the journey of ISA over the last 30 years, Secretary-General Lodge noted: “ISA has been steadily, consistently and conscientiously fulfilling its mandate according to the evolutionary approach established in the 1994 Agreement and in line with the expectations of Member States. ISA has significantly expanded its activities in the field of marine scientific research and capacity development, which is also a reflection of the interest of Member States, especially the developing States, to benefit from the work carried out by ISA and its contractors.

“At this time, what is needed is consistency, stability and the necessary time to allow ISA to complete its currently most important work. Completing the draft exploitation regulations will also help to reduce political tensions by providing the necessary certainty for all parties to ensure that activities in the Area can be managed according to the legal framework established in UNCLOS and the 1994 Agreement. This is also the best guarantee for the effective protection of the marine environment,” he added.

The visit concluded with a visit to the National Deep Sea Centre and the ISA-China JTRC. This was the opportunity to celebrate the many achievements realized since 2021 and discuss future activities and programs to support the implementation of the ISA MSR Action Plan.


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