The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was opened for signature at Montego Bay, Jamaica, on 10 December 1982. It entered into force 12 years later, on 16 November 1994. A subsequent Agreement relating to the implementation of Part XI of the Convention was adopted on 28 July 1994 and entered into force on 28 July 1996. This Agreement and Part XI of the Convention are to be interpreted and applied together as a single instrument.
The origins of the Convention date from 1 November 1967 when Ambassador Arvid Pardo of Malta addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations and called for "an effective international regime over the seabed and the ocean floor beyond a clearly defined national jurisdiction". This led to the convening, in 1973, of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, which after nine years of negotiations adopted the Convention.
The Convention establishes a comprehensive legal framework to regulate all ocean space, its uses and resources. It contains, among other things, provisions relating to the territorial sea, the contiguous zone, the continental shelf, the exclusive economic zone and the high seas. It also provides for the protection and preservation of the marine environment, for marine scientific research and for the development and transfer of marine technology. One of the most important parts of the Convention concerns the exploration for and exploitation of the resources of the seabed and ocean floor and subsoil thereof, beyond the limits of national jurisdiction (the Area). The Convention declares the Area and its resources to be "the common heritage of mankind". The International Seabed Authority, established by the Convention, administers the resources of the Area.
The text of the Convention, information regarding its historical background, and further information may be found on the website of the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea.