Coast Guard Admiral Pushing for US Ratification of Law of the Sea Treaty

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

As his tour in Alaska winds down, Rear Admiral Christopher Colvin, commander of the Coast Guard’s 17th District, says it’s imperative the United States ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty.

Right now the U.S. has exclusive control of the ocean bottom up to 200 miles off Alaska’s northern coast. The treaty would push it to 440 miles.

Colvin says China is already exploring areas north of the United States’ exclusive economic zone off Alaska – areas that would be off limits to the Chinese under the Law of the Sea.

Colvin has been the head of Coast Guard District 17, encompassing all of Alaska, since July 2009. In May he’ll be transferred to he Coast Guard’s Pacific Area Command in Alameda, California, where he’ll be second in charge of Pacific operations.

Last week U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski told the state legislature she’ll push for ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty this spring or summer. She says Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair John Kerry and President Obama are behind the measure. But some in Congress are still opposed to it.

160 nation states and the European Union have ratified the Law of the Sea. The United States is one of 18 countries that have signed, but not ratified it.

Murkowski this week also asked Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for an update on the Coast Guard’s ice breaker fleet. The president’s budget proposal calls for decommissioning the Polar Sea, which would leave the U.S. with only one ice breaker for the next two years – the Healy, which can’t break heavy ice. The Polar Star, which does have heavy ice breaking capability, is expected to return to service in late 2013.

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