30h – 2q


Philippe Gautier



Objectives and contents


The international community is faced with an increasing number of challenges relating to the uses of the sea and the protection of the environment in a transboundary context (sea-level rise, piracy, plastic debris, overfishing, oil spills,...).

The course intends to examine the legal notions required to understand and deal with these complex issues. To that end, it examines the international legal regime applicable to the maritime areas as well as the principles governing the international protection of the environment, with a particular focus on the regime applicable to the “global commons” (high seas, Antarctica, Climate).


The course will examine the following topics:

  1. General principles and key notions: sovereignty and jurisdiction, freedom of the high seas, common heritage of mankind, status and limits of the different marine areas, principles of environmental law and notions of responsibility/liability 

  2. Law of the sea: overview of the legal regime applicable to marine areas (internal waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone, continental shelf, high seas, the Area); consideration of current issues (sea-level rise; bio-prospecting, plastic debris, Arctic ocean, piracy and terrorism)

  3. Environment: prevention and reparation of transboundary damages, overview of the existing conventional regimes (biodiversity, climate changes, oil pollution) Protection of the marine environment, regulation of fishing activities, protection of the Antarctic



The lectures are practice-oriented and are focused on case-law. Active participation of students is encouraged. Power-point presentation is used.


Students present a written exam consisting in a practical exercise (casus) and two questions covering specific issues which have been addressed during the lectures. Students may bring texts and documents at the exam (but not the summary of the lectures)


Selected bibliography

Ph. Gautier, La Belgique et l'Antarctique, Textes et documents, Ministère des Affaires étrangères de Belgique, Bruxelles, 1992; «Ph. Gautier, Quelques réflexions sur les Etats, le droit des gens et le dommage à l'environnement », Revue belge de droit international, 1992/2, pp. 448-484; N. Schrijver and F. Weiss (eds.), International Law and Sustainable Development – Principles and Practice, Nijhoff, 2004; Ph. Gautier, « L’Annexe VI au Protocole de Madrid relatif à la protection de l’environnement de l’Antarctique : ‘Responsabilité découlant de situations critiques pour l’environnement’ », Annuaire français de Droit international, 2006, pp. 418- 431; A. Kiss and D. Shelton, Guide to International Environmental Law, Nijhoff, 2007; P. Birnie, A. Boyle, C. Redgwell, International Law & the Environment, Oxford University Press, 3d ed., 2009; E. Franckx et Ph. Gautier (eds.),The Exercise of Jurisdiction over Vessels: New Developments in the Fields of Pollution, Fisheries, Crimes at Sea and Trafficking of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Bruxelles, Bruylant, 2011;  Ph. Gautier, « Règlement des différends relatifs au droit de la mer et protection du milieu marin », cours audiovisuel Médiathèque de droit international, Nations Unies/UN Audiovisual Library of International Law, 2014,; Ph. Gautier, “The exercise of jurisdiction over activities in Antarctica: a new challenge for the Antarctic System”, in Law of the Sea, From Grotius to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, Liber Amicorum Hugo Caminos, L. del Castillo (ed.), Brill, Nijhoff, 2015, pp. 192-210.