The continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles (NM) accounts for a great value for States. The development of technologies and science has allowed the human economic and scientific activities on the deep parts of the ocean floor. The continental shelf is rich with living resources. The living resources of continental shelf are also valuable, since they possess valuable genetic resources for pharmaceuticals and commercial products. Many valuable non-living resources are situated on the continental shelf, including hydrocarbons (oil and gas) and minerals (e.g. manganese, nickel, cobalt, gold, diamonds, copper, tin, titanium, iron, chromium and galena). Therefore, States have spent significant resources on conducting a research and exploring their continental shelf and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) has received seventy-seven submissions and issued twenty-nine recommendations pursuant to Article 76 (8) of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). With the expected improvement of technological capabilities in decades to come, especially, in deep waters, the continental shelf will be explored more thoroughly and perhaps will meet no technological limits.
The study addresses the challenges facing the law of the sea. Although UNCLOS is rightly described as a constitution of the law of the sea, it does not and cannot give answers to all problems and doubts that arise in practice and that are related to global warming, protection of biodiversity, legal status of genetic resources, controversy concerning shipping, delimitation of areas or the protection of underwater cultural heritage. Hence the question arises, what the ways and means of further development of the law of the sea are. Undoubtedly, one of the possibilities is to develop implementation agreements, of which the third devoted to the protection and sustainable use of marine biodiversity outside national jurisdiction is the subject of an international conference convened by the General Assembly, whose resolutions in the area of the law of the sea play an important role. Undoubtedly, also the importance of the organization of the United Nations system, such as the IMO, FAO, UNESCO, UNEP is significant. There is also the possibility of accepting agreements addressing the issues left by UNCLOS without solution or definition. Not without significance is the soft law and the practice of states as well as the position of the organs appointed by UNCLOS.