China Adopts First Law on Deep Seafloor Exploration

(Xinhua News Agency, Feb. 26, 2016. Complete text:) Beijing - China’s top legislature on Friday [Feb. 26] passed the country’s first law on deep seafloor resource exploration to protect the maritime environment and ensure sustainable exploitation.

The legislation was adopted after a second reading at the bimonthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), and signed by President Xi Jinping.

The government encourages and supports international cooperation on the exploration, exploitation and surveys of deep seafloor resources, in addition to boosting joint efforts on environmental protection, scientific research and educational training, according to the legislation.

Exploration and development should be peaceful and cooperative, in addition to protecting the maritime environment and safeguarding the common interests of mankind, it stipulates.

Potential deep seabed prospectors must submit their plans to the Chinese maritime watchdog, including environmental impact assessments. Only after the regulator approves the plan can application be made to the International Seabed Authority.

The legislation, which will come into force on May 1, also mandates the government to formulate plans and promote the research and surveys of resources.

China is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which states that international seabeds and their resources are the common property of mankind.

Protecting maritime environment.

Deep sea project contractors must have an emergency response mechanism and report immediately to authorities when encountering emergencies. They should take every feasible measure to reduce harm to people and the environment.

If the maritime environment is polluted due to their activities, the contractors can be fined up to one million RMB ($153,000).

Contractors are also required to take measures to preserve the maritime ecosystem and biodiversity.

The law endows deep sea contractors with exclusive rights to explore and develop certain resources, mandating that they should protect any relics or objects found during exploration.

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