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Seabed Authority seeks budget hike to manage increased workload

Luke Douglas

Friday, July 20, 2012    

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THE International Seabed Authority (ISA) is seeking a 27 per cent increase in its budget for the next two years in order to better manage an expected increase in its workload over the period.

Five new applications for exploration have been filed this year to the ISA, which already supervises 12 active contracts for the exploration of mining activities in the international seabed area underlying most of the world's oceans, beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.

ISA secretary-general Nii Odunton, in his report to the authority's 18th session Tuesday, said there has been a significant increase in the authority's workload over the past two years.

In addition to monitoring the exploration contracts, the authority's work includes "the development of urgently needed rules regulations and procedures related to the protection of the marine environment and future exploration, the report said.

"In this regard, while the workload of the authority has evolved there has been no increase in the resources available to carry out that work," Odunton stated.

The ISA is an autonomous international organisation established under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to organise and control activities in the international seabed area, particularly with a view to administering the resources of the seabed. It is headquartered in Jamaica, at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.

The exploration contracts have been granted singly or jointly to entities from countries such as Russia, China, France, Germany, Japan, India and even Cuba.

The private and public sector entities explore the ocean depths for minerals such as polymetallic nodules, which are potato-sized lumps rich in iron, copper, gold, silver, zinc and cobalt worth billions of dollars.

If investors, governments and environmental interests can agree on the rules governing the international seabed, it could set off a deep-sea mining frenzy in the years ahead.

The ISA's 18th session opened at its headquarters at the Jamaica Conference Centre Tuesday with Milan Jaya Meetarbhan of Myanmar elected to a one-year term as president of the ISA Assembly, while Alfredo Garcia Castelblanco of Chile was elected president of the ISA Council.

The ISA Assembly is made of the 162 member countries, while the Council, which is the executive organ of the authority, consists of 36 members elected by the Assembly.

The ISA has observer status with the United Nations.

The ISA's 18th session runs until July 27, with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller scheduled to a special session commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Law of the Sea Convention next Tuesday.

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