UM Hosts 2018 Maritime Law Association Meeting, Professor Bernard Oxman Addresses Members on Law of the Sea

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Professor Bernard Oxman, Miami Law’s internationally renowned public international law of the sea expert and Chair of Miami Law’s LL.M. in Maritime Law, was a featured speaker at the Maritime Law Association of the United States’ fall 2018 meeting.

Professor Bernard Oxman

Professor Bernard Oxman

Oxman opened his luncheon address in front of attendees with, “The sea has always been swept by two great opposing winds: the sea wind blowing toward the land is one of freedom; the wind from the land toward the sea carries sovereignties. The law of the sea has always found itself at the heart of their confrontation.”

The Richard A. Hausler Professor Law was quoting the French scholar René-Jean Dupuy who had once described the basic issue in the international law of the sea.

“The picture that emerges from this remarkable metaphor is one of struggle. It is not one of order and stability, which of course is what we ordinarily seek from law,” Oxman said. “A dozen years ago I cited this metaphor in an essay for the American Journal of International Law. The title of the essay was ‘The Territorial Temptation.’ Its subtitle, ‘A Siren Song at Sea’ was a thinly veiled warning about the danger lurking in the lure. It suggested that like Odysseus, we need strong rope tying us to a strong mast to protect us from plunging in.”

The University of Miami School of Law was honored to be chosen to host the Maritime Law Association of the U.S. fall 2018 meeting which took place from October 17 to 20 at UM’s Coral Gables campus and the Biltmore Hotel.

Founded in 1899, the maritime association is charged with advancing reforms in the maritime law of the United States, facilitating justice in its administration, and furnishing a forum for the discussion and consideration of problems affecting the Maritime Law and its administration.

From 2003 until 2005, Oxman was a member of an arbitral tribunal in a dispute between Malaysia and Singapore and has recently been named judge ad hoc of the International Court of Justice in a maritime delimitation case between Romania and Ukraine. He is the only American lawyer ever appointed to serve as judge ad hoc before both international tribunals. Oxman was one of four international lawyers tapped by the government of the Philippines to render pre-litigation advice in the maritime case against China in the South China Sea, and he concluded on that subject.

“Lawyers who concentrate on private law, including admiralty, proceed based on certain assumptions regarding the public law in the background,” he said. “In the case of the sea, the assumption has been that the Law of the Sea Convention provides the relevant rules and reasonable stability. That assumption has now been challenged by an important and powerful state, ironically without regard to its own growing interest in global stability in the law of the sea and global mobility. Whatever the diplomatic or other actions the United States might take in the South China Sea itself to counter that challenge, those efforts would unquestionably be enhanced by a more credible legal platform of principle than appeals to customary international law.”

More on the LL.M. in Maritime Law