It's time to ratify the Law of the Sea

It is disappointing that U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte has signaled her opposition to the Law of the Sea Treaty, a U.S.-initiated agreement that will help drive investment, economic growth and job creation in New Hampshire and across America.

We hope the senator will reconsider her position in light of the many benefits ratification of this important treaty would provide for her constituents.

By ratifying the treaty, America would gain exclusive sovereign commercial rights to the full U.S. outer continental shelf, which, in some areas, extends up to 600 miles beyond the coast – three times the current 200-mile limit.

The University of New Hampshire's own Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping has been deeply involved in mapping unexplored regions of the Arctic seafloor in support of potential U.S. claims under the Law of the Sea Treaty. UNH is home to some of the world's leading experts in hydrographic and seafloor mapping and they've spent months at sea in support of expanded U.S. claims that can only be realized if the United States becomes a party to the treaty.

Former Sen. Judd Gregg was instrumental in ensuring UNH researchers had the resources they needed to pursue their ambitious exploration.

With ratification, U.S. companies would gain exclusive access to vast oil, gas and mineral resources in the deep seabed off America's shores – including rare earth minerals that New Hampshire's high-tech manufacturing businesses depend on. These minerals are used in a wide spectrum of high-tech products that will be increasingly important to the Granite State's economy.

On the national security front, the Law of the Sea would guarantee international legal recognition of the right of America's armed forces to move unencumbered throughout the world's oceans. Moreover, ratifying the treaty would give the United States access to an internationally recognized system for resolving commercial disputes in foreign waters while protecting America's exclusive right to address military disputes directly and on its own terms.

Opponents of the Treaty argue that it would somehow weaken U.S. military strength and that U.S. companies could reap the benefits of the deep seabed without it. Those arguments don't hold water, and the people who would know – our military and business leaders – have made that clear. The Treaty strengthens our military posture and offers additional protections to our armed forces overseas. That is why all living former U.S. presidents and secretaries of state, as well as current and former Army, Marine and Air Force generals and Navy and Coast Guard admirals, have endorsed ratification.

No American company will make an investment in deep seabed mineral recovery without international legal recognition of its right to do so, said Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in June.

Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, testifying before the same committee said, "Other nations are actively seeking to knock us from our mantle of economic leadership, yet, too often, we remain on the sidelines. Manufacturers can't afford for the U.S. to sit on the sidelines when it comes to the Law of the Sea."

American companies have President Ronald Reagan to thank for the treaty's extremely favorable deep seabed mining provisions. Reagan's efforts to secure a better deal for America led to changes that granted the United States a permanent seat – with veto authority – on the council that governs seabed mining. Reagan held out for amendments that eliminated mandates that would have required the United States to share technology and revenues from deep seabed mining.

But the Senate must act to secure all of these important economic and national security benefits for America. Without treaty ratification, America stands to lose out to claims from nations that are parties to the treaty and want to encroach upon the vast seabed mineral wealth off U.S. shores.

By endorsing the treaty, Sens. Shaheen and Ayotte can help support the Granite State's high-tech and manufacturing industries – and create jobs for New Hampshire workers – while strengthening American sovereignty and providing important legal recognition for the navigation rights of America's armed forces.


State Sen. Gary Lambert, R-Nashua, is a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. Larry A. Mayer is professor and director of the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping/NOAA-UNH Joint Hydrographic Center at the University of New Hampshire. Jim Grady is CEO of LighTec Inc., Merrimack.

Categories: Opinion