UNCLOS, signed on 10 December 1982, entered into force on 16 November 1994 and prompted the meeting of an IOC Working Group in 1996 to discuss the effects of this new ‘legal framework for the oceans’ on the Organization. The meeting provided the basis for the establishment in 1997 of the IOC Advisory Body of Experts of the Law of the Sea (IOC/ABE-LOS) (IOC Resolution XIX-19). The Advisory Body is tasked with providing advice on the IOC´s role in relation to UNCLOS as set forth in its Terms of Reference..
IOC/ABE-LOS is an Intergovernmental body composed of two national experts (one with training in the Law of the Sea and the other with training in marine sciences) from IOC Member States.

Terms of Reference for the

Advisory Body of Experts on the Law of the Sea


1.The ABE-LOS shall provide advice upon request to the IOC Assembly, Executive Council and/or Executive Secretary IOC on the possible implementation of the proposals and recommendations included in the Summary Report of the First Session of the openended Intercessional Working Group on IOC's Possible Role in Relation to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (IOC-LOS) (Document IOC/INF-1035).

2.The ABE-LOS shall take into account:

i.The purpose and functions established by the IOC Statutes and Rules of Procedure;

ii.The rights and duties of the coastal States as stipulated in UNCLOS;

iii.Other applicable provisions of UNCLOS related to marine scientific research;

iv.The role of the bodies established under UNCLOS;

v.The need to co-ordinate efforts with other relevant bodies in the United Nations system and/or other relevant international organizations.

3.The bulk of the Advisory Body's work shall be done by correspondence, co-ordinated by the Executive Secretary IOC. –

(Annex to Resolution XIX-19)

IOC/ABE-LOS has been working on the following topics:

  • the Practice of Member States in the application of Parts XIII (Marine Scientific Research)and XIV (Transfer of Marine Technology) of UNCLOS;
  • the Criteria and Guidelines on Transfer of Marine Technology (CGTMT);
  • the Procedure for the Application of Article 247 of UNCLOS (Marine scientific research projects undertaken by or under the auspices of international organizations) by IOC;
  • the Legal Framework, within the context of UNCLOS, which is applicable to the collection of oceanographic data.

The Executive Council at its Forty-third Session (Paris, 8–16 June 2010) established an intersessionnal open-ended working group to prepare a questionnaire on the achievements of the IOC/ABE-LOS and opportunities for future activities where the advice of an expert body may be necessary, and tasked the open-ended working group with collating and analysing the responses of the Member States. The Assembly at its Twenty-sixth Session (Paris, 22 June–5 July 2011) re-established the intersessional open-ended working group and continuously tasked it with collating and analyzing the responses of the Member States and to prepare a report as a review of IOC/ABE-LOS.

The Executive Council at its Forty-fifth Session (Paris, 26–28 June 2012) decided that IOC/ABE-LOS would continue its work focused on priorities as tasked by IOC governing bodies in line with the Terms of Reference, mobilising extra-budgetary resources when necessary. In this regard, the future activities of IOC/ABE-LOS will be identified by IOC governing bodies when needed.

For the past resolutions / decisions relating to the development of IOC/ABE-LOS, please refer to IOC-LOS Resolution website.