Latin American states have come to a new agreement concerning the use of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea as a forum for the settlement of law of the sea disputes. According to a press release issued by the Tribunal, the arrangement foresees that when states from the region are involved in proceedings before a special chamber of the Tribunal, meetings may be held at a suitable city in the region. Ordinarily, the Tribunal sits in Hamburg, although the Statute of the Tribunal allows it to sit and exercise its functions elsewhere whenever it considers this desirable (Article 1(3) of the Statute). This is the first instance in which it has been anticipated that the Tribunal will use the power to vary its place of sitting. The agreement arose during a workshop on the settlement of law of the sea disputes that took place in Buenos Aires from 26 to 28 May.
This initiative can be interpreted as part of a strategy to increase the workload of the Tribunal. To date, the Tribunal has only had two substantive disputes submitted to it and one of these was provisionally settled before any proceedings took place. In contrast, a large number of maritime disputes have been submitted by Latin American states to the International Court of Justice under the so-called Pact of Bogota. Whether or not this new arrangement will make a difference remains to be seen. It will certainly make it more convenient for the settlement of maritime disputes between Latin American states, although whether it will lower costs is questionable. The limitation of the arrangement is that it only appears to apply to proceedings before a special chamber whose constitution requires the prior agreement of both states.