Marine scientific research
Marine Scientific Research (MSR) requests
For Australian research entities to undertake Marine Scientific Research under UNCLOS Part XIII in Foreign Coastal States waters and
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS) establishes a comprehensive regime for the law of the sea. Part XIII (Articles 238-265)
provides inter alia, that every State has the right to conduct marine scientific research, but that right is subject to the rights and duties of the
coastal State in whose jurisdiction the research is being conducted. While coastal States have the exclusive right to regulate, authorise and conduct
Marine Scientific Research (MSR) in their waters, UNCLOS provides that in normal circumstances, such States shall grant their consent for MSR in their
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) or Continental Shelf.
Three (3) types of applications can be made:
- Undertake Marine Scientific Research (MSR) within the national jurisdiction and on the Continental Shelf of a Foreign State – Category 1
- Undertake MSR (as above) and make a visit/port call to 1 or more Foreign Ports – Category 1A
- Make a visit/port call to 1 or more Foreign Ports – Category 2
Where is the MSR application submitted?
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (DFAT) on behalf of the Australian Government manages the MSR application process for Australian entities and Australian-flagged vessels wishing to conduct MSR within the jurisdiction and/or on the Continental Shelf of a Foreign State. This means that all applications for MSR must be submitted to:
- Marine Scientific Research Officer
Sea Law, Environment Law & Antarctic Law Section (SEL)
International Legal Branch
Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade
RG Casey Building
John McEwen Crescent
BARTON ACT 0221
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Telephone: +61 (0)2 6261 3600
- Facsimile: +61 (0)2 6112 3600
What must be submitted when making a MSR application?
In order to ensure that Australia complies with its obligations under UNCLOS, DFAT requires all Australian entities and Australian-flagged vessels
proposing to conduct MSR within the national jurisdiction and/or on the Continental Shelf of a Foreign State to provide us with information about proposed
projects in order to allow a case-by-case assessment of whether formal notification needs to be provided to the relevant coastal State. Therefore, it is
important that you provide full and accurate information.
The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization provides a generic template for an application to conduct marine scientific research. While this template may not cover all the requirements of the Foreign Government, we would encourage you to utilise this form, as it constitutes a useful standard. This form can be accessed through the following link: http://ioc-unesco.org/images/stories/LawoftheSea/Documents/MarineScientificResearch/MSR_FormA.pdf
Timeframes are provided by UNCLOS and consistent with this DFAT requires all Australian entities and Australian-flagged vessels proposing to conduct MSR in
another State's waters to provide us with information about proposed projects for:
Marine Scientific Research or Marine Scientific Research and Port visit
For applications to undertake MSR or to undertake MSR together with a visit to 1 or more foreign ports you must lodge your application a clear six (6) months in advance of the expected start date of the marine scientific research and/or the
port call, whichever is the earlier date.
For applications to visit 1 or more foreign ports you must lodge your application a clear two (2) months in advance of the expected date of your first (or only) port of call.
What if a MSR application requires amendment?
If you need to amend your application, you must submit any amendment to the Marine Scientific Research Officer, SEL, within the following timeframes:
- For MSR – a clear two (2) months in advance of the expected start date of the MSR
For MSR and a Port call – a clear two (2) months in advance of the expected start date of the MSR or port call, whichever is the earlier
- For a Port call only – a clear one (1) month in advance of the expected date of your first (or only) Port call.
Applications are initially assessed by DFAT. If DFAT decides to notify the relevant coastal State, we will do so via official diplomatic channels. DFAT
will then act as interlocutor on your behalf in gaining the approval or otherwise from the relevant coastal State. During this process, Australian entities
and Australian-flagged vessels should not deal directly with the relevant coastal State unless requested to do so by DFAT.
As part of this consultation process, your application and any further material that you provide or are requested to provide by DFAT on behalf of the
relevant coastal State including any material relating to the requirement/s for any additional permits will be disclosed/provided to relevant coastal
State. The disclosure and provision of your material to the relevant coastal State is for the purpose of assessing and processing your application to grant
consent to undertake MSR and any additional permits required or conditions imposed by the relevant coastal State.
In turn, the relevant coastal State as part of their assessment of your application may exchange, disclose/provide information related to your application
including material related to any requirement for additional permits within their respective government departments, agencies and related entities for the
purpose of assessing and processing your application to undertake MSR and/or any additional permits required or conditions imposed.
It may also be the case that DFAT will need to refer any or all of your application to relevant Australian Government Departments and Agencies including
Australian State and Territory Government Departments and Agencies.
In lodging your application with DFAT you accept that the disclosure/provision and exchange of the information contained in your application and any
related material will occur between DFAT, relevant Australian Government Departments and Agencies and the relevant coastal State and their agencies and
related entities, as required, to process your application.
Following consideration of your application to undertake MSR by the relevant coastal State, DFAT will provide you with the advice of the relevant coastal
State decision, which may include:
- Seeking additional information
- Conditionally approving the application to undertake MSR
- Approving the application to undertake MSR
- Declining the application to undertake MSR
In normal circumstances, coastal States shall grant their consent for MSR in their EEZ and/or continental shelf. Indeed, the spirit and form of UNCLOS
provisions encourages international cooperation in MSR for peaceful purposes.
Reasonable conditions may be imposed on any permission granted pursuant to and directed towards compliance with the relevant coastal States guidelines,
applicable laws and Treaties and Conventions to which the relevant coastal State is a party, including UNCLOS and the 1992 Convention on Biological
Conditions may also address commercial benefits, which might flow from research in the coastal State in whose jurisdiction the research is being conducted.
Research proponents may be requested to complete Statutory Declarations or like documents pursuant to the relevant coastal State's laws.
Under UNCLOS, coastal States have the prerogative to participate or be represented in the MSR project, including on-board the vessel. UNCLOS in addition,
places a duty on vessels conducting MSR to comply with certain conditions, in particular, requests from the coastal State in whose EEZ and/or continental
shelf the research is being conducted. This includes complying with requests from the coastal State for preliminary reports and final results and
conclusions of the research conducted, as well as providing access to the coastal State all data and samples derived from the research, together with an
assessment of such data, samples and research results (or assistance in such assessment).
As mentioned above, vessels conducting MSR have a duty under UNCLOS to comply with certain requests from the coastal State related to the research and
findings. Accordingly, each request by an Australian research vessel to conduct MSR in another States waters must include:
- proposals to make available to the relevant coastal State, in a timely manner, the results, both preliminary and final, of all marine scientific research
- proposals to provide, in a timely manner, copies of such data in standard international formats, and to lodge samples of all materials and species
- proposals to provide a timely assessment of data, samples and research results or provide assistance in their assessment or interpretation.
Where applicable, data must be exchanged under the protocols of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission
(IOC), including but not limited to those of the International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE) program, Joint WMO/IOC Commission for
Oceanography and Marine Meteorology (JCOMM) and World Weather Watch (WWW).
Data collected within the relevant coastal State's Marine Jurisdiction is requested to be submitted with accompanying metadata to the respective repository
for that dataset within six (6) months of the completion of the voyage in the relevant coastal State's Marine Jurisdiction.