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The means of determining the boundary of the territorial seas as between adjacent countries is adequately regulated by these conventions. The boundary between the territorial sea and the high seas is not so determined.

An examination of the history and antecedents of the 1958 and 1960 Conference on the Law of the Sea enables one to say, however, with some degree of assurance, that the boundary between the territorial sea and the high seas is a line each point of which is equidistant from the boundary between the inland waters (or land) of the coastal state and its territorial sea. There is a concensus that the X of this formula is not less than 3 marine miles nor more than 12. Nations have a right to choose any distance desired between these limits, but no clear obligation to recognize the sovereignty of another nation over an X distance of more than 3 marine miles.

In a band of sea every part of which is within 12 marine miles of its coast, called the contiguous zone, the coastal state may exercise the control necessary to prevent infringement of its customs, fiscal, immigration, or sanitary regulations within its territorial sea, and to punish infringement of the above regulations.

The rest of the world ocean is open to all nations, coastal or noncoastal, and is called the high seas. On, in, or over this high seas, all nations have, among other things: (1) freedom of navigation; (2) freedom of fishing; (3) freedom to lay submarine cables and pipelines; and (4) freedom to overfly.

The Convention on Fishing again asserts that all states have a right for their nationals to fish on the high seas subject to their treaty obligations, the interests and rights of coastal states provided in the convention and the duty to provide for the conservation of the living resources of the high seas. Conservation is defined as the aggregate of all measures rendering possible the optimum sustainable yield from those resources so as to secure a maximum supply of food and other marine products. The special interests and rights of the coastal state are defined in such a manner that it can enforce conservation, as so defined, of resources being fished in the high seas off its coast by itself or others, or only by others. Under some conditions it can even enforce conservation measures on the fishermen of other states on the ad ent high seas unilaterally. Provisions are laid down for the peaceful settlement of disputes arising out of these matters running, in the last instance, to compulsory arbitration according to criteria laid down in the convention.

Under the Convention on the Continental Shelf the sovereign rights to explore and exploit its natural resources pertain to the coastal state. These resources are defined as the mineral and other nonliving resources of the sea bottom and subsoil together with living organisms belonging to sedentary species, that is to say, organisms which, at the harvestable stage, either are immobile on or under the seabed or are unable to move except in constant physical contact with the seabed or the subsoil. The Continental Shelf is defined as the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas adjacent to the coast (and islands) but outside the area of the territorial sea to a depth of 200 meters or, beyond that limit, to where the depths of the superjacent waters admits of the exploitation of the natural resources of the said areas. These rights by the coastal state on the Continental Shelf specifically do not affect the legal status of the superjacent waters as high seas, or that of the airspace above those waters.

If one draws on a very large globe a line 3 marine miles from the coast, it can scarcely be told from the line marking the coast; a 12-mile line stands out a little more clearly. But most of the world ocean lies outside a line 12 miles from any land. Subject to the obligation to not overfish the resources lying therein, all states have a right for their nationals thus to utilize these resources. The resources become the property of him who first reduces them to his possession. This is so of the mineral and nonliving resources of the deep seabed, which, again, occupies most of the space under the high seas.

It may be noted that not only does no country have any private property rights over this, the larger part of the earth's surface, but that no person can obtain such a private property right at all. Such rights as do exist to harvest and use these resources belong to the several countries and not to private persons. A fisherman, or a miner, on the high seas, can be the object of international law but only sovereign nations are its subjects. A fisherman or a miner does not harvest the resources of the high seas or the deep seabed under any rights flowing to him from international law; he can only exercise the rights that belong to his sovereign permitted to him by the municipal law of his sovereign.

Reflection will bring you to the conclusion that everything you can think of on earth belongs to some person, or to some group of persons organized as a sovereign government, except the high seas, the deep seabed, their resources, and the air above. Departure from this thought to the contemplation of the lack of property rights over the remaining 70 percent of the earth takes a little doing. Bankers normally show a hesitance in providing loan capital without the security of a piece of property, or something tangible, that can be seized and sold in case of failure of the business. Large industry has shown hesitance in the exploration and exploitation of resources it cannot own (Mero, 1959). Much talk is heard of fish farming and the improvement of fish breeds as with domesticated animals. But no farmer can afford to raise stock that can be harvested willy-nilly by any other farmer, nor can he undertake the costly process of improving the breed only to turn it loose in the enormous common pasture where it can be harvested by a foreign fisherman a thousand miles away without it even being identified. Except for the general rights noted above international law scarcely goes out upon the high seas. There is nobody of uniform law over this vast area. Citizens upon it respond to the municipal law of the country whose flag their vessel flies.

No nation has yet been strong enough to command all of the world ocean, nor is any such likely to arise in the foreseeable future. All aspects of the ocean (its resources and its role as a highway carrying most of the world's commerce) are too valuable to all nations for them to allow it to come under the governance of anyone.

But as we go more upon the ocean, and occupy it and its bottom more fully, as science and technology is enabling us to do in a vast rush, a body of law for man's governance in this enormous international common must be developed. Neither men nor their sovereigns can live in peace except under law. Basically neither one likes to cooperate with others. The great pastures of the ocean require this cooperation imperatively and if there were no other reason for their existence this one alone would bring forth an organization like the United Nations, and its specialized agencies.

With these concepts of enormity, modes and recent knowledge, and common property in mind let us look at how man is doing, and may do, in the use of some of the potentials of the sea.


One does not need to go upon the sea to realize the enormous amount of energy contained in it which, if tameable, would be useful to mankind. The enormous waste of energy in waves beating on the shore, the tremendous thrust of tidal bores up particular estuaries and bays, and the titanic power in the flow of the great rivers in the sea such as the Gulf Stream, and Kuroshio, have long excited the imagination of man. In more recent years the great quantities of energy capable of liberation by reason of the juxtaposition of warm surface waters overlying cooler water layers has been apparent, particularly in the tropics and subtropics where the eastern boundary current conditions often leave a quite shallow warm surface layer above the cold bulk of the ocean's depth.

Attempts have been made to harness these forms of energy. The Passamaquoddy Bay project is one well-known effort in the direction of harvesting tidal currents. The French effort off the Ivory Coast of West Africa is a wellknown effort to harvest the energy of temperature differences in equatorial seas.

None of these has yet turned out to be successful nor is there any great likelihood that they will be so in the near future. The reason for this is that the science and technology of making easily transportable energy available for mankind's use from other sources is proceeding at such a rapid pace that there seems little likelihood of the similar science and technology with respect to the use of oceanic energy directly catching up from the standpoint of competitive cost in the near future.

It is not generally realized how rapidly man is moving toward the goal of cheap and abundant useful energy. The competitive struggle is between fossil fuels (oil, coal, gas, shale) and nuclear fission, with fusion processes receiving much basic scientific attention and theoretically capable of winning the race in the end.

A few years ago nuclear power was simply a dream in the minds of a few theoretical scientists but the practical applied scientists, technologists, and engineers quickly grapsed it and have pushed its competitive costs down very rapidly. As they have done so, those with proprietary interests in fossil fuel energy have redoubled their efforts to lower their unit costs of energy production.

In 1962 an eminent authority in the electrical industry stated flatly that nuclear power was not competitive with conventional energy. He estimated that in the period 1973–78 nuclear power would cost between 6.17 and 6.89 mills per kilowatt-hour and that the cost of energy from conventional sources would vary between 3.9 to 5.6 mills per kilowatt-hour. Thus in 15 years he estimated that nuclear power would be still far from competitive with conventional power.

In the meantime nuclear power installations have been constructed or are being constructed. One at Oyster Creek in New Jersey will be completed in 196768 and is expected to deliver power at costs as low as 3.66 mills per kilowatt-hour. In the meantime another large plant is being built in the East using low priced coal, designed for completion in 1967, and expected to deliver power at 3.59 mill per kilowatt-hour (Abelson, 1964).

Obviously the racers have come much closer in 2 years time than had been expected to happen in 15 years only so short a time ago. In doing so they have sharply reduced the cost of energy from either source, and the chances are good that there will be further sharp reductions yet in the cost per unit of producing electrical energy from both sources. California with its population expected to rise from the present 17 million level to 42 million level in 2000 (Brown, 1964) and its relative shortage of fossil fuels, has been rapidly building its power production and the plans for further expansion are astronomical in size. A change in thinking about energy source is taking place. There are some visionaries who say that the last fossil fuel plant to be built in California is now on the drawing boards and that all future expansion will be from nuclear power.

In the face of the rapidly declining cost of energy production from fossil fuels and nuclear fission there would appear to be little likelihood of energy from the ocean becoming competitive in our time.

There is enough uranimum dissolved in the ocean to provide the nuclear fuel for mankind for almost all time to come. The difficulty is separating it from the water. If one ran 2 million acre-feet of sea water through a sea water factory (about 660 billion gallons) one could, with perfect efficiency, recover about 5.6 tons of uranium which would convert into about 6.6 tons of uranium oxide, the normal commercial form. At $16,000 per ton this would yield an income of about $105,000. But a plant at the present state of the art to handle this job would cost about $100 million and operating it long enough to handle this much water in a year would cost about $12 million (McIlhenny and Ballard, 1963). Although these figures are so far out of joint presently as to appear to be ridiculous, basic research designed to concentrate uranium from sea water is being pursued steadily (particularly in England) and it is unsafe to say that this will not in time become practical.

Also the quantities of deuterium and tritium in sea water hold out the prospect of practically limitless quantities of fuel for atomic fusion plants (McIlhenny and Ballard, 1963). This will remain of largely academic interest until a practical atomic fusion plant is built. Again, it is unsafe to speculate that a break through in fusion engineering will not bring this about in a few years.


The more than 1 billion cubic kilometers of water in the ocean is more than any thinkable quantity of humans in any livable concentration on earth could use for all combined agriculture, industry, or municipal and domestic purposes for all time. The problem is to separate it from everything that is dissolved in it and transport it to where it is needed, all at a cost that can be afforded. No activity more likely to render great sections of the earth more habitable can be conceived than making fresh water available where none or little is presently at hand.

It must be kept in mind that the ocean provides all the fresh water we presently have. Seventy percent of the solar energy falling upon the earth strikes the ocean and major parts are absorbed in it. More energy strikes the earth in low latitudes than at the poles and the process there goes on more steadily. Thus the low latitude ocean surface is warmed more, more water is evaporated from the ocean surface into the atmosphere and with it goes the enormous energies in the clouds. The imbalance of cold toward the poles, heat toward the equator, the rotation of the earth, the interference of land masses, and other natural forces set up and drive the great ocean currents which transfer the heat energy from the low latitudes to the high. The atmosphere and the ocean compose a vast, closely-coupled heat engine, with the ocean as the great reservoir of energy making up the flywheel that keeps the engine running reasonably steadily and reasonably predictably.

Knowledge and understanding of this great heat engine and its processes are beginning to accumulate as oceanographers and meteorologists ply their professions more energetically and more together; technology and engineering also move apace. It is becoming apparent that there may be ways which man can learn and do to tinker with the workings of this heat engine practically in such a manner as to evaporate fresh water from the ocean and transport it through the atmosphere to where it is wanted and thus, in Khrushchev's phrase "make the deserts bloom.” The technical problems in the way of doing this are still very large but it is no longer safe to say that scientists and engineers cannot do something with nature that man wants done urgently enough to pay the bills.

In the interval before that happy event occurs research goes on in other fields which gives much hope that the nuclear giant may be harnessed in the near future to get a very large amount of fresh water out onto land where it is badly needed at practical costs.

It must be kept in mind that there are numerous situations where man can now afford to pay rather high water rates for considerable amounts of fresh water. Fresh water distillation plants using diesel fuel have been used for many years already on ocean going vessels, and since the last war they have become practical even on such smaller vessels as tunaclippers, thus much extending their range.

Where fuel is cheap, water is dear, and men are thickly concentrated, distillation plants are already in operation on land to support the domestic needs of considerable cities. Examples are provided by Kuwait, Curacao, and Guantanamo Bay. Approximately 20 million gallons per day of such land-based installations are already in operation (Revelle, and others, March 1964).

Much research is going into methods of deriving fresh water from sea water not only by multistage flash distillation, but by long tube vertical distillation, vapor compression distillation, freezing, reverse osmosis, electrodialysis, and so forth. Costs in some of these processes are already in the practical range of what man can pay for water for some purposes in a good many places. A useful yardstick is provided by the rapidly growing

city of Tijuana, Mexico, which now has a population of about a quarter of a million and is still growing rapidly. It lies in a stark desert alongside the Pacific Ocean. It outgrew its municipal water supplies for domestic uses some time ago. Potable water is now sold from tanktrucks on a large scale at $1.25 per 1,000 gallons, and under this water cost structure the city still grows rapidly.

Across the border in San Diego the Office of Saline Water Conversion of the Department of the Interior built an experimental multistage flash distillation plant calculated to produce about 1 million gallons per day. By improvements in method made before the plant was recently moved to Guantanamo Bay, capacity was raised to 1.4 million gallons per day which could be produced at a cost of a little less than $1 per 1,000 gallons. The power source was ordinary commercial electricity off of the line.

Recent studies by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Office of Saline Water Conversion and the Office of Science and Technology (Revelle, and others, March 1964) indicate the practicality of combining gigantism of plant, modern technology, and modern energy sources into plants that can produce fresh water from the ocean at much less costs than this.

One such scheme to use a technology estimated to be available by 1980 (the reverse osmosis method) and a capital investment of about $450 million, yields a cost estimate for fresh water of 21 cents per 1,000 gallons in volumes of 1,000 million gallons per day (loc. cit., p. 29). Other schemes even larger in capital cost and water yield are presented as possible of accomplishment in the foreseeable future which might yield large volumes of fresh water at the plant boundary under certain conditions for as low a cost as 11.2 cents per 1,000 gallons (loc. cit., p. 18).

From these heady calculations emerges the concept of a gigantic dual-purpose plant using nuclear energy which would produce the energy for evaporating fresh water from the ocean, for transporting it to where it was wanted, and for generating surplus electrical power, for industrial uses in such places as needed both fresh water and electrical power, were near to the sea, and could raise the necessary capital. At the most efficient size studied, the capital cost estimated to be required for one such plant would be about $2 billion.

Such a situation arises in California. There a system costing well more than $1 billion is well along in construction designed to transport fresh water from the northern rivers of that State to its desert south, where population and industry is growing so rapidly. At one point the water must be raised a considerable height over the Tehachapi Mountains to enter the southern coastal plain. Much power will be needed for this pumping. All the additional power and fresh water that could be practically produced at the same time at reasonable cost could be used. Accordingly, although the above referred to report from the Office of Science and Technology is less than 8 months old, studies are already well underway in California to incorporate a smaller model of this dual purpose nuclear powered fresh water plus powerplant (at a cost of about $100 million) into the California water program.

Thus, although much research and engineering is still needed in nuclear power generation in large plants, fresh water conversion in large plants, and the coupling of the two into practical plants to produce fresh water and electricity at competitive costs, this research and engineering is going forward at an increased pace, applications in developing programs of fresh water conversion by these means are under active study, and the production of great volumes of fresh water from the ocean for man's use on land is no longer a visionary prospect.


A very considerable amount of several dissolved things are already recovered from the ocean each year. Common salt has been produced from ocean water by solar evaporation from prehistoric times and this is still the source of great tonnages of salt produced at such diverse localities as San Francisco Bay, San Diego Bay, Black Warrior's Lagoon, Mexico; Cape Verde Islands; Tuticorin, South India; and so forth. Much of the magnesium used in the United States in both metallic and in other compound forms, is recovered from the sea in the Freeport, Tex., plant of the Dow Chemical Co. This is also true of a large part of the bromine used in the United States.

On the other hand, despite the vast array of chemical compounds dissolved in sea water, and available there in volumes far greater than man's need for them, only common salt, sodium and potassium compounds, magnesium and magnesium compounds, and bromine are produced from sea water in commercial quantities. The reason is exclusively economic. The other elements and compounds are not worth the cost of removing the water from them under present technology.

Furthermore this is the outlook for a good long while to come. McIlhenny and Ballard of the Dow Chemical Co. (1963) have carried out a most useful study that illustrates the reason why.

They have hypothesized a plant using the most modern available technologies and taking advantages of the economies of what they considered to be about the largest practicable size for such a plant. This hypothetical plant would process about 2 million acre-feet of sea water per year (660 billion gallons), which is a considerable amount of water, but scarcely a drop in the bucket as far as the ocean is concerned.

This plant would cost about $100 million to construct and about $12 million per year to operate. It would produce about 93 million tons of various elements, metals, compounds, and so forth, per year from this amount of water and (when converted into the normal products of commerce at 1962 prices) these commodities would bring about $1,353 million per year income to the plant.

This would appear to be an investor's dream, but there are certain flaws in the picture when it is examined a little closer.

The bulk of this product and value ($763 million and 76.3 million tons) would be common table salt. The annual production of this commodity from this one plant would represent about three times the amount of table salt used for all purposes in the United States in 1961 and about three-fourth of all that is used in the world per year at present. At this rate of production the $10 per ton used for this calculation would not last long as the market price, the main item of income would shrink sharply, and the plant would soon be buried under a mountain of salt.

The next biggest income hypothecated from the plant's operation would be magnesium oxide with 6 million tons at $53 per ton (1962 price) bringing in about $314 million. This would represent about five times the annual use of this product in the United States and nearly twice its annual use in the world. Thus inventory accumulation and price deflation for it would likely be worse than for salt,

The third largest product would be bromine with 184,000 tous at $430 per ton (1962 U.S. prices) yielding $79 million. This would be about twice the U.S. volume of use of this element per year, and the market would quickly collapse.

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