Application for Consent from Coastal States
for Marine Scientific Research (MSR Application)
In accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), when conducting Marine Scientific Research (MSR) activities in waters under the jurisdiction of a foreign state (e.g., territorial sea, exclusive economic zone [EEZ], or continental shelf including extended continental shelf), an application for its consent must be made through diplomatic channels to the coastal state at least six months prior to the planned commencement date of the research expedition. (This process is hereinafter referred to as the "MSR application"). The same procedure is required for conducting MSR activities in the waters under the jurisdiction of the United States, which has not ratified UNCLOS.
2. Process from Application to Clearance
The General Affairs Group, Planning and Coordination Department, Institute for Marine-Earth Exploration and Engineering (MarE3) of JAMSTEC (hereinafter referred to as “our Group”) holds a meeting with the Chief Scientist or Principal Investigator about nine months before the departure date to discuss and review the draft application, and submits the final application along with a tentative list of crew members and onboard scientists to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) at least eight months before the departure date. This allows JAMSTEC and related ministries time to obtain its internal approval and coordination in order to submit the MSR application to the government of coastal state at least six months prior to the start of the research expedition which is required by UNCLOS (The final list of crew members and onboard scientists is submitted to MEXT about three months before the departure date).
3. Documents to be Prepared by the Chief Scientist or Principal Investigator
As explained in section 2, the draft application will be reviewed about nine months prior to the departure date. Therefore, about 10 months prior to the departure date, please contact our Group (zeejamstec.go.jp) to start preparations. At that time, a set of documents which need to be prepared by the Chief Scientist or Principal Investigator will be provided with, including the application form.
(1) Application form
In general, the MSR application should be submitted in English using the UN “Standard Form A: Application for consent to conduct marine scientific research”. However, some coastal states may require their own application forms and in languages other than English.
The application must include the purpose of the research, the method and means to be used (including description of scientific equipment), the precise geographical areas (e.g., latitude and longitude, observation points, route), and the expected date of first entry and final departure of the research vessel, or expected schedule of deployment and removal of equipment.
The documents to be prepared by the Chief Scientist or Principal Investigator, including the application form, are as follows:
- Outline of the Research Expedition (Japanese)
- List of onboard scientists (Japanese and English)
- MSR Application Form (English)
- CV of the onboard scientists (if applicable) (English)
- Descriptions of the main equipment to be used (if applicable) (English)
In addition to MSR application based on UNCLOS, depending on the research method, type of samples, and research areas, it may be necessary to apply for and obtain permits from the coastal states under their own domestic laws and regulations. In general, the Chief Scientist or Principal Investigator must prepare and submit the documents him/herself directly to the coastal state, not via our Group. However, depending on the coastal state’s regulations, you may be asked to submit such documents along with the MSR application through diplomatic channels.
- Application for Special Permit for Research in Marine Protected Areas
- Environmental Impact Assessment Report
- Application for Special Extraction Permit
- Application for permission for access to genetic resources and benefit sharing (ABS)
Incomplete applications may affect the issuance of MSR clearances. Therefore, please gather the necessary information by establishing a counterpart in the coastal state, and obtain required permission before each deadline.
(2) Changes to the application (including additions and revisions)
Due to the background as explained above, in principle, any changes including additions and revisions to the content of the application are not allowed after submission to MEXT eight months in advance.
If the research method or geographical area is found to be different from the content of the application submitted to the coastal state, the coastal state may request that the research be stopped or terminated, and the research results and data obtained thereby cannot be used. Researchers are requested to strictly refrain from changing the contents of the application at their own discretion.
In case a change is necessary due to unavoidable circumstances, please consult with our Group immediately, as we will inquire the matter to MEXT and MOFA as an exception.
Please note that any changes to the content of the application after the coastal state receives it may be considered as a "new application" by some coastal states. In such a case it may be necessary to delay the start date of the research expedition in accordance with the six-month advance application requirement of UNCLOS.
(3) Submission of the final list of onboard scientists
The final list of onboard scientists is due three months prior to the departure date in general. Except in the case of replacement of the Chief Scientist or Principal Investigator due to unavoidable circumstances, no replacement or addition of onboard scientists will be permitted after this date.
Renewing your passport is also considered a change of information. Please pay attention to the expiration date of your passport and complete the renewal at least three months prior to the departure date. However, as it may be sometimes difficult to obtain visas three months prior to the departure date due to the planned date of entry into the coastal state, please make sure to obtain required visas until the departure date.
It is unnecessary to include in the list the specific information of those who will be nominated by the coastal state to join the expedition (e.g., observers and researchers who participate with the approval or request of the government) as long as their embarkations are requested or notified through diplomatic channels (e.g., specified in the clearance). Other than that, all other persons on board including co-researchers from the coastal state should be confirmed and stipulated in the final list at least three months prior to the departure date.
4. Response to Conditions from Coastal States
(1) Boarding request
As an additional condition of the MSR clearance, some coastal states, especially developing countries, may request to have their government officials as observers or researchers onboard in accordance with UNCLOS.
Basically, these embarkation requests cannot be refused if they are requested through diplomatic channels or if they are mentioned in the clearance. Since embarkation requests are often a prerequisite for the issuance of clearances, the Chief Scientist or Principal Investigator should take the possibility of embarkation requests into consideration when adjusting the number of onboard scientists and selecting ports of call.
Please note that after JAMSTEC submits the application to MEXT, the procedure based on diplomatic channels will begin. Therefore, please refrain from coordinating independently with government authorities and researchers in the coastal state regarding the MSR application after this point.
If any coordination is needed, please immediately contact our Group. We will make inquiries through diplomatic channels. In case of an individual application as Chief Scientist or Principal Investigator, please share the information with our Group, while you proceed with the coordination as needed. (See 3. (1)).
If you make coordination with the coastal state on your own instead of going through diplomatic channels, there may be additional questions or requests from the government of the coastal state, or confusion with your MSR application, and as a result, clearance may be delayed or not issued.
Whenever you receive a direct inquiry from a coastal government, please share it with our Group. If necessary, we will respond to the coastal government through diplomatic channels.
(2) Request for marine survey
Some coastal states may request surveys (e.g., bathymetric surveys) in their waters. While these are voluntary "cooperation requests" in many cases, please consider cooperating to the extent possible in order to maintain and continue good relations with the relevant coastal state.
(3) Obligation to submit reports
After the completion of the research expedition, the coastal state may request the submission of a preliminary report, a final/full report, a summary report of the cruise (ROSCOP-CSR), or a list of samples collected (basically in English, but sometimes in a specified language). These are only reports on the facts of the marine scientific research activities conducted and do not represent the final results of the scientific analysis of the data and samples collected.
Unless otherwise specified by the coastal state, the UN standard form C: "Preliminary Cruise Report" will be used for the preliminary report, and the cruise report prepared for submission to JAMSTEC will be revised and submitted to the coastal state as the "Final Report". The "Preliminary Cruise Report" will be sometimes prepared in accordance with the international ROSCOP-CSR format. The "Sample List" should preferably be an English version of the metadata sheet, but the format is not limited to that.
The deadline for submission of any of these reports is relatively short. Preliminary reports, cruise summary reports, and sample lists are usually due within one to three months, while final reports are usually due within six months to one year. Depending on regulations of the coastal state, the deadline dates might be counted from the departure date from the waters of the coastal state. Chief Scientist and Principal Investigator are therefore requested to prepare these reports and submit them to our Group at least one month before the specified deadline.
(1) Planning stage
In addition to the MSR application, please keep in mind whether or not there are other separate application procedures based on domestic laws and regulations of the coastal state. It is also a good idea to approach research institutes and collaborators in the coastal state for joint research. In order to ensure smooth issuance of clearances, please have contacts in place to promptly respond to questions and requests from the coastal state through diplomatic channels.
Occasionally, scientists receive requests from overseas institutions to deploy observation equipment such as Argo floats during the research cruise of JAMSTEC. In this case, we ask those institutions to submit a letter pledging to take responsibility for the necessary procedures for the deployment of the observation equipment, including obtaining prior consent from the coastal state. Please contact us as soon as possible if applicable.
(2) After the start of the expedition (from departure to disembarkation)
Research activities that are outside the scope of the application, such as collecting data or samples, or installing observation equipment, are not permitted. If the activity differs from the content of the application, the use or disclosure of the relevant data will not be allowed. If this is discovered during the survey, the coastal state may request that the survey activities be suspended or terminated.
(3) After the expedition
After the completion of the research expedition, you may be asked to provide the coastal state with the data and samples you have collected.
For inquiries, please contact
General Affairs Group
Planning and Coordination Department
Institute for Marine-Earth Exploration and Engineering (MarE3)
Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC)