Closing a Commons: How a Novel Property Regime Can Promote Peace and Efficient Extraction of Deep-Sea Resources in The South China Sea

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Ocean and Coastal Law Journal


Disputes over maritime boundaries result in inefficient outcomes for all parties to the conflict. The investments required to exploit deep-sea resources are too costly for risk-averse states to attempt to tap into mineral and hydrocarbon deposits beneath disputed boundaries. Consequently, more risk-tolerant states may exploit deep-sea resources without other parties receiving any form of compensation. Alternatively, in some cases no parties will opt to invest in or sponsor such operations because of the uncertainty and risk, depriving surrounding states of the economic benefits tied to those deep-sea resources. This paper relies on principles underlying Coasian bargaining to develop a template for the immediate resolution of maritime disputes to allow for the efficient exploitation of deepsea resources. It fills a gap in the literature on these disputes by calling for a framework other than the application of the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Though other authors have applied property-based thinking to topics related to the Law of the Sea, those inquiries have not directly addressed how that thinking could resolve specific disputes over deep-sea resources, such as in the South China Sea.

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