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The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, commonly called the Law of the Sea Treaty or its abbreviation, UNCLOS, was adopted in 1982 and took effect in 1994. The treaty provides a regulatory framework for using the world’s oceans. It addresses related topics including general conservation, protection of the sea’s living resources, sovereignty, navigational rights and more.

This agreement has been ratified by 162 countries. It includes individual protections for mariners, and it spells out the duties and responsibilities of flag states.

Although the United States has not fully signed on to Law of the Sea Treaty, the State Department describes doing so as “a top priority” for our nation. The State Department further describes the treaty as one that “protects and advances a broad range of U.S. interests, including U.S. national security and economic interests.” And, they point out that past administrations, Republican and Democratic, as well as U.S. military leaders and many American maritime industry groups all strongly support joining the convention.

As a very brief representative sample, individual supporters of U.S. ratification include former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen and former Chief of Naval Operations Vern Clark. We list those names here in part to rebuke the outrageous notion that America somehow would be yielding power by signing the treaty. Quite the contrary, in additional to its economic provisions, the treaty establishes specific jurisdictional limits on the ocean area that countries may claim, including a 12-mile territorial sea limit and a 200-mile exclusive economic zone limit. A number of countries currently are pushing to extend the latter limit to 300 miles. Being a signatory party would better enable the U.S. to make such claims and would bolster our capacity to defend our economic interests.

Finally, we point out that in addition to numerous other organizations, both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO also are on record as supporting ratification. Brothers and sisters, when the federation and the Chamber of Commerce agree on something, it’s got to be a slam dunk.

The Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO, strongly supports America’s full ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty – the sooner the better.