Disputes over maritime space are increasing in magnitude – but our understanding of international politics and the maritime domain remains limited. The four-year research project OceanGov combines two strands within the social sciences – international relations and international law – in an interdisciplinary approach to examine disputes at sea.

The project will identify conditional propositions and trends explaining why some disputes at sea escalate whereas others are settled, within three maritime domains: The Arctic Ocean; the Black Sea; and the East China Sea. From this, we will embark on an in-depth study of ocean governance and international politics, linking region-specific findings with global governance trends more generally.

As the political and economic significance of the maritime domain is increasing worldwide, and spatial disputes are emerging as a consequence, we ask what determines the emergence and evolution of disputes over marine resources and maritime space in a regional context? Why do some maritime spatial disputes escalate into conflict? Can examination of specific regional contexts lead to some conditional propositions that determine the likelihood of a maritime dispute escalating or being resolved?

Studying how states deal with disputes over the delineation of maritime rights and space can offer insights into ocean governance processes and related international politics. How are global ocean governance mechanisms – with an emphasis on the UNCLOS – influenced by regional dynamics, which in turn constrain the very same dynamics? How is the UNCLOS regime developing and adapting in order to deal with emerging maritime disputes? How can we theorise the link between regional practice and global ocean governance?

The project aims both to improve our understanding of specific disputes in changing regions and to apply these findings to improve our general understanding of governance over maritime space and maritime resources.

OCEANGOV structure

Project period: 2021-2024




  • Research Council of Norway