Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)

Module LAW44130: Law of the Sea

Department: Law

LAW44130: Law of the Sea

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2019/20 Module Cap None.


  • None


  • Fundamental Issues in International Legal Governance

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To develop an understanding of the law of the sea. The first half of the course focuses on the law of the sea as an independent topic, an internal perspective on the law of the sea. The second half considers the law of the sea as a part of general international law, an external perspective on the law of the sea. The topic allows for the consideration of public international from a number of different perspectives. In particular, this raises questions of functional regimes within international law, or international law and its fragmentation, and of international law's interaction with questions of geography, space and the physical world. The course aims to provide both knowledge of the specific area of the law of the sea, and a greater understanding of international law by focusing on this specialised regime.


  • A selection of topics in the following areas will run in each year:
  • The definition of the sea
  • Baselines
  • Internal and external waters
  • The territorial sea
  • International Straits
  • Islands and Archipelagos
  • Contiguous Zones
  • The continental shelf
  • The Exclusive Economic Zone
  • The high seas
  • The deep sea bed
  • Delimitation of meritime boundaries
  • Navigation and shipping
  • Fishing
  • The definition of the sea
  • The law of the sea in treaty and custom
  • The environment of the sea-pollution and protection
  • Scientific uses of the sea
  • Military uses of the sea
  • Landlocked states
  • Pirates and people at sea
  • Jurisdiction at sea
  • The law of the dea dispute settlemtns
  • The history of the law of the sea
  • The geography of the law of the sea
  • The law of the sea as a representation of public international law

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will have:
  • A thorough knowledge of the fundamental principles of the law of the sea;
  • A demonstrably in-depth knowledge of certain key aspects of the law of the sea and its relationship with wider issues in international law;
  • A familarity with the contemporary issues in the law of the sea, and its development
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students should be able to:
  • interpret and evaluate critically relevant documents within the law of the sea and identify the theorectical and critical approaches informing their interpretation;
  • appreciate how law interacts with the physical world, in terms of boundaries, delimitation, resource management and dispute settlement;
  • identify key issues within the law of the sea, and international law more generally, such as the interaction of treaty and customary law, the interaction of law and space, and the regulation of people beyond the land.
Key Skills:
  • Students should be able to:
  • demonstrate an ability to understand and analyse critically a wide variety of complex issues, drawing on a variety of materials;
  • develop expertise in conducting legal-research using materials from a variety of national and international sources;
  • describe accurately and coherently the arguments and analysis of other commentators;
  • write in a clear and structred way and to put forward issues in a scholarly manner;
  • and demonstrate an ability to explore creatively complex issues in writing.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The course will be taught through a series of introductory lectures and seminars. One term will consist of two lectures and five seminars, then the other term will have three lectures and five seminars, allocated as appropriate by the teaching team. There will be two introductory lectures of two hours at the start of each half of the course. These will take place over the first two weeks of each term. The first term will introduce the students to the fundamentals of the law of the sea as a subject. This will be formatively assessed following this initial two week period. There will then be a summative assessment at the end of the first term.
  • The second term begins again with two introductory lectures on the law of the sea in context, and a first introductory seminar. This term is then broken down in to 4 topics. This will be followed by a summative essay entailing a critical evaluation of the student's research on one of the topics, displaying their substantive knowledge and analytical skills. The formative and summative papers, based on student choice of one of the topics taught, will ensure that students have met the research, analysis, and communication objectives of the module.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
lectures 5 First two weeks of Michaelmas, three of Epiphany 2 hours 10
seminars 10 Fortnightly 2 hours 20
Preparation and Reading 270
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Summative Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Summative Essay 1 3,000 words 40% 3,000 words, different title
Summative Essay 2 3,000 words 60% 3,000 words, different title

Formative Assessment:

One 1500 word essay

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University