The Registry

ITLOS - Nippon Foundation Capacity Building and Training Programme


We are no longer accepting applications for the 2023-2024 programme. A call for applications for the programme year 2024-2025 will be announced in early 2024 contingent upon the availability of funds.

ITLOS-Nippon Foundation Capacity-Building and Training Programme on Dispute Settlement under UNCLOS

In cooperation with the Nippon Foundation, the Tribunal runs an annual capacity-building and training programme on dispute settlement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea ('UNCLOS').

The full-time programme, which runs for nine months and begins in July each year, takes place at the seat of the Tribunal in Hamburg, Germany. Contingent upon the availability of funds, call for application is announced each year during the month of February or March. 

The programme is aimed at junior to mid-level government officials and researchers mainly from developing countries who are currently working on issues related to the law of the sea, maritime law or dispute settlement. It provides participants with a unique opportunity to develop their legal skills and deepen their practical knowledge of dispute settlement in the law of the sea under UNCLOS.

All participants' costs, including travel, accommodation, medical insurance and a monthly allowance, are covered by the Nippon Foundation.


A series of lectures takes place throughout the nine months of the programme. Lectures are generally held over the course of two days, offering the fellows the possibility of close debate with the lecturers. The faculty of lecturers is drawn from Judges of the Tribunal, Registry officials, United Nations and international organizations, universities, law firms and other relevant institutions.

At the beginning of the programme, the fellows take part in the four-week Summer Academy of the International Foundation for the Law of the Sea. This course focuses on law of the sea and maritime law and is attended by around 40 young professionals from around the world working in the fields of law of the sea and maritime law.

Some examples of lectures given during recent programmes are:

Dispute settlement under UNCLOS

  • The mechanism for the settlement of disputes under Part XV of UNCLOS with a special focus on ITLOS
  • Contentious and advisory proceedings
  • Giving evidence before international courts and tribunals
  • Provisional measures
  • Prompt release

International organizations and the law of the sea

  • The role of international organizations in the implementation of UNCLOS
  • The work of the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs, United Nations
  • The mandate and work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf under UNCLOS
  • The interaction between the International Seabed Authority and the Tribunal

Current issues related to the law of the sea

  • Law of maritime delimitation
  • Law of the sea and human rights
  • The Arctic and UNCLOS
  • The establishment of the limits of the continental shelf
  • Fisheries management
  • Marine scientific research
  • Marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction

International environmental law

  • General principles of international environmental law
  • UNCLOS and the regional seas programmes
  • The precautionary principle and the protection of the marine environment
  • Climate change and the law of the sea
  • Biodiversity and protection of ecosystems

Maritime law lecture series

  • Maritime security
  • Ship registration
  • Vessel pollution

International law lecture series

  • Sources of international law
  • law of international organizations
  • State responsibility
  • Law of treaties


Training sessions, workshops, and mock cases are arranged in order to enhance the practical and professional skills of the fellows. 

The programme offers training in negotiation and mediation. Workshops are organized to prepare the fellows for their potential role as agents, counsel, or legal advisers in cases before international courts and tribunals. The tools used for this purpose include exercises in drafting documents relating to cases, attendance at oral proceedings at the Tribunal, the International Court of Justice or the Permanent Court of Arbitration, and presentation skills using audio-visual tools. Mock cases are also held, as well as training in maritime delimitation. Training on different topics of international law is also provided through an online course of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).

Collaborating institutes

An integral part of the training and capacity-building programme on dispute settlement under UNCLOS is the cooperative arrangements with the Max Planck Institute Luxembourg for International, European and Regulatory Procedural Law in Luxembourg and the Max Planck Foundation for International Peace and the Rule of Law in Heidelberg. Cooperation is undertaken in the following areas:

  1. Max Planck Foundation for International Peace and the Rule of Law in Heidelberg: training on conflict resolution.
  2. Max Planck Institute Luxembourg for International, European and Regulatory Procedural Law in Luxembourg: training on international procedural law. 

Study visits

Group visits of between two and five days complement the knowledge gained and training given in dispute settlement and issues/topics related to the law of the sea. Accompanied by a legal officer, the fellows are given exclusive access to experts from the institutions and have the chance to attend hearings or meetings.

In previous years, the following visits have been organized for the fellows:

Belgium: Brussels

Germany: Berlin, Bremen, Cuxhaven, Hamburg, Hanover, Kiel

The Netherlands: The Hague

United Kingdom: London


Research on law of the sea disputes and other ocean matters relevant to governments and institutions of the participants is an integral part of the training. After a training session on legal research methodology, the fellows undertake research using the library facilities of the Tribunal. Participants undertake their research under the guidance and supervision of the Registry. Participants have also the opportunity to refer questions concerning their research topics to the Judges of the Tribunal. The results of the research are presented to the Judges of the Tribunal at the end of the programme.


  • Applicants must be between the ages of 25 and 40.
  • Applicants must have a first university degree in law and demonstrate a capacity to undertake independent scientific research, study and training.
  • Applicants must be:
  1. junior to mid-level government officials from an administration or government agency, dealing with ocean affairs or maritime matters as well as legal issues relating thereto; or 
  2. researchers from an institute (academic or government) dealing with ocean-related or maritime matters as well as legal issues relating thereto.
  • Applicants must indicate the research topic which they intend to pursue during the programme. The research topic should address legal issues of relevance to the State concerned regarding the implementation of UNCLOS, in particular Part XV thereof.
  • The administration or institute nominating the applicant must indicate on the nomination form the tasks performed by the applicant and explain the extent to which the training programme will benefit the institution/State concerned.
  • Applicants must have an excellent knowledge of one of the official languages of the Tribunal (English and French) and a working knowledge of the other language. The lectures and activities of the Programme are mainly held in English.


The following documents must be submitted in order for an application to be processed:  

  • Fellowship Application Form to be duly completed, signed and submitted by the applicant. 
  • Nomination Form to be duly completed, signed and directly submitted by the nominating agency. The submitted form must be typed.

In the case of government officials, the nominating agency should be a relevant governmental body. For researchers, the nominating agency may be the institute or academic department of the university to which they are affiliated.

Nominating agencies are invited to submit two copies of the Nomination Form:

  1. One scanned version of the signed original; and
  2. One electronic version.

The Nomination Form may be preferably sent by e-mail to or by fax to: (+49 40 35607-245) or by post to:

Office of the Registrar
International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea
Am Internationalen Seegerichtshof 1
22609 Hamburg

Conditional acceptance to the programme

Admitted applicants must submit the following documents:

  1. A medical certificate issued by a duly qualified physician stating that they are in good health and fit to complete the entire programme (from July 2023 until March 2024). The certificate must indicate that the admitted applicant is able to travel inside Germany and overseas.
  2. A certificate issued by the nominating agency indicating that the candidate is granted permission to travel to Hamburg and to participate in the full nine-month programme from July 2023 to March 2024.

Final admission to the programme will be contingent upon submission of the medical and permission certificates. Admitted applicants must submit a copy of the certificates within two weeks of announcing the admission. The original certificates must be submitted on the first day of the programme and must be in either English or French or accompanied by a certified translation.

Participants’ costs, including travel, accommodation, medical insurance and a monthly subsistence allowance, are covered by the Nippon Foundation.

Participants are responsible for obtaining a visa for Germany for the period of the programme at their own cost, although assistance may be provided in order to facilitate the visa application process. Visas for the study visits are arranged by the programme coordinator and the costs covered by the programme.

During the programme, the fellows become part of the ITLOS community and are fully integrated in the life of the Registry for nine months. They interact with staff, Judges and participants of the other training programmes run at the Tribunal. As ITLOS alumni, the fellows join a growing network of young professionals from around the world working in the field.

Fellows are provided with a fully equipped office with computer, printer and internet connection for the duration of the programme. Fellows have access to the Tribunal’s specialized Library, which houses a comprehensive collection on the law of the sea and related subjects, such as maritime law, environmental law, ocean affairs, coastal management, international courts and tribunals, international organizations, dispute settlement, arbitration, and general issues of public international law.

Accommodation in the vicinity of the Tribunal is provided in studio apartments, with a bedroom/sitting area, kitchen and bathroom.

During their first weeks in Hamburg, the fellows are introduced to life in Germany and given German language classes. Language training in either English or French may also be provided.

101 fellows have participated in the programme since 2007. Meet a few of them and read some of their comments on the programme:



Mr Adonis Tafangy, Madagascar

The 9 months spent at ITLOS were lived to the fullest. It was an incredible experience to meet the judges directly, to talk with them, to learn from them, and even to tell jokes with them.

I have learnt a lot from my experience at ITLOS, both from the internship and the fellowship. I am fully using that knowledge in my current position of Director of Legal Affairs of the Maritime Administration of Madagascar, and mostly in bringing Madagascar’s maritime legislation up to international conventions’ standards. My passages at ITLOS have also given me the great chance to have a large number of international friends sharing the interest of the development of the law of the sea.




Ms Grace Kaue, Papua New Guinea

There are a number of capacity-building programmes available for those working in this field. Many involve a course of lectures, most include a period of research. But this fellowship is unique. What sets it apart from the others is that the programme is not just about research, it’s about face-to-face experiences, meeting the people working with, developing and implementing the law of the sea. Via well-structured modules of lectures, fellows benefit from unprecedented interaction with the Tribunal’s Judges, with academics and practitioners and with counsel from cases dealt with under UNCLOS. We learn about the drafting history and establishment of UNCLOS, its development over the years and its implementation today.

Building networks and making contacts is of paramount importance and the programme has given me incredible opportunities to meet Judges, experts and practitioners and also to build up a network among the Summer Academy participants, my fellow participants on the programme, ITLOS interns and alumni.




Ms Marie Bourrel-McKinnon, France

The year spent as a “Nippon Fellow” was life-changing: not only because the courses and experiences offered to us really helped me build my own knowledge in the discipline, but  also because of the intensity of the whole experience. With the other fellows, we formed a very united group, which again proved to be a wonderful thing as I would go on to learn from them and through them. Of course, the main privilege came from the lectures given either at the Tribunal itself, by the Judges and the Legal Officers, or in other places such as the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg, the Université de Bretagne in Brest and in The Hague. The different study trips organised throughout the programme were also very interesting and additionally offered valuable opportunities for meeting a range of experts and professionals, with whom I am still in contact.




Mr Buba Bojang, Gambia
The unique and well-regarded curriculum is rewarding in that it provides a comprehensive approach to salient subjects in public and private international law and the law of the sea. Having so many eminent experts, including judges, legal officers and the Registrar of the Tribunal, delivering lectures offered a rare opportunity for early specialization and further training and research opportunities, and capacity development as a legal adviser, depending on one’s priority. In my case, the ITLOS training gave me both. 
The field visits to the relevant institutions in Germany and elsewhere, the training programme at the University of Brest, France, and the research visit to the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg provided an experience second to none. The diversity of participants provided fertile ground for intriguing discussions, exchange of knowledge and experience, and lifetime networking.




Ms Mary Elisabeth Chong, Singapore

Before coming to ITLOS, I had just completed my Master's in International Dispute Settlement at the Graduate Institute of Geneva and the University of Geneva. Prior to that, I was (and still am) a State Counsel in the International Affairs Division of the Attorney-General's Chambers of Singapore. I applied for the programme in order to gain a deeper knowledge of the law of the sea and dispute-settlement mechanisms under UNCLOS. My time at ITLOS over the past nine months has surpassed my expectations. We had the opportunity to meet eminent scholars, practitioners and technical experts in different fields of the law of the sea, all of whom imparted to us their legal knowledge and insights from their experience in international dispute-settlement practice. In addition, we had the chance to visit various international dispute-settlement institutions (including the ICJ, the PCA, the ICC and the CJEU), research institutions (such as the Max Planck Institute in Luxemburg and the Max Planck Foundation in Germany) as well as other institutions working on matters relating to the law of the sea (including the IMO and various maritime agencies of the European Union and Germany). We also attended workshops, which allowed us to hone our practical skills, such as the technicalities of boundary delimitation and presenting cases before the Tribunal. Moreover, being trained and conducting research at ITLOS gave us an opportunity to observe day-to-day life as well as hearings at the Tribunal.




Mr Nigel Browne, Trinidad and Tobago

Without a shadow of a doubt there is no other programme like the ITLOS-Nippon Foundation capacity-building programme. It is unique in that it allows junior to mid-level government officials and researchers to receive lectures consistent with those of any reputable master’s programme, and it also provided me with actual on-the-job training experience, through training sessions and mock cases which were arranged on a regular basis. These training sessions were geared towards enhancing both our practical and our professional skills. We were also taken on several group visits, which complemented the knowledge gained and training given on topics related to the law of the sea.




Mr Naporn Popattanachai, Thailand

My time as an ITLOS-Nippon fellow at the Tribunal is by far one of the best moments of my life - personally and academically. As an ITLOS-Nippon fellow, I had the opportunity to develop both as an international lawyer and as an academic with the kind support of the Judges, Legal Officers, and all the Tribunal staff. All the Judges were friendly and ready to discuss and challenge my arguments. In addition, the programme enabled the fellows not only to study and research but to see what happens in real life through several excursions, visits, and actual hearings in cases. The IFLOS Summer Academy supplemented my law of the sea and maritime law knowledge, while the time at the Tribunal gave me a practical insight into the law of the sea. Guest lecturers are renowned professors and practitioners who both enlighten and fascinate in all areas of the law of the sea. More importantly, you cannot find a better library than the Tribunal's. I cannot thank the programme, the Tribunal and the Nippon Foundation enough for their kind support during my time in Hamburg. I hope I can return to Hamburg soon!




Mr Nayef Alshaikh, Bahrain

Working at the Tribunal is a great experience, you can meet Judges, attend lectures on the law of sea and specifically on dispute settlement, participate in law of the sea conferences organized by the Tribunal, develop your legal writing skills by writing a research paper and use the specialized Library, which has a comprehensive collection on the law of the sea. Also, in the practical field, you have the opportunity to attend hearings in pending cases. Once again it's a great experience and if you have the opportunity - go for it!




Mr Joshua Benn, Guyana

The ITLOS-Nippon Programme is a great opportunity for young professionals in the area to buttress their knowledge. Personally, the most rewarding experiences from the programme were the occasion to be trained by and interact with prominent Judges of the Tribunal and international lawyers. The Library has an array of literature in the relevant fields, which makes the Tribunal a most appropriate forum for the programme, especially considering that a research paper must be submitted at the conclusion of the programme. I therefore heartily recommend others to capitalize on this magnificent opportunity.






Ms Kristina Rzgoeva, Georgia

Participating in the fellowship programme was a benchmark moment for me. Along with the knowledge and experience I gained during the fellowship I also had the opportunity to meet the judges and communicate with them, receiving advice and attending hearings - this is what makes the programme so exclusive and irreplaceable. The fellowship helped me to broaden my knowledge and become one of the few law of the sea specialists in Georgia. It gave me confidence in myself and facilitated the decision-making part of my work.




Mr Egor Fedorov, Russian Federation

Through meetings with well-known experts, numerous lectures, and practical seminars on legal writing and advocacy the programme allows us to dive into the law of the sea and fosters an extensive knowledge of basic as well as very specific and pertinent law of the sea issues. The atmosphere of common learning interests and open discussions makes the programme even more valuable. I sincerely value the opportunity to meet and learn from international law experts, including judges, representatives of international organizations, State authorities and academia, as well as those having first-hand experience in representing States before international courts and tribunals. In this light, I consider the Nippon fellowship programme as another important step in enhancing my speciality in the field.



Since the programme began in 2007, we have welcomed 101 fellows from 73 States. They are now part of the ITLOS Alumni Network.

For further information please contact: 

The ITLOS-Nippon Programme Coordinator
International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea
Am Internationalen Seegerichtshof 1
22609 Hamburg

Tel.: (+49) 40 35607-243
Fax: (+49) 40 35607-245