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Determining the Legal Status of Unmanned Maritime Vehicles: Formalism vs Functionalism

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Document pages: 43 pages

Abstract: The introduction of unmanned maritime vehicles (UMV) raises a number of international law issues. In its 1951 decision in the Anglo-Norwegian Fisheries case the International Court of Justice set out the formal, two-step approach for analyzing such international law questions. For most maritime nations, the legal status of UMV is governed principally by the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. To the extent the status question requires interpretation of that Convention, the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties prescribes the method. In their rush to accommodate the introduction of UMV into the world’s waterways, some UMV advocates appear ready to circumvent established methods for making, amending, and interpreting treaties. This article argues that respect for the global rules-based order argues against such expediencies.

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