APL Colloquium

August 2, 2019

Colloquium Topic: The “Cloud” is Beneath the Sea: Why International Law of the Sea is a Critical Factor in the Astonishing Growth of Submarine Cables

Submarine fiber optic cables carry over 98% of the international voice, data, and video of the United States.  It is no exaggeration to say that the “cloud” is beneath the sea. Cables are also important for marine scientific research and military uses.  Many do not appreciate that the success of cables rests on a foundation of customary international law found in the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention and other treaties.  This talk will provide the basic structure of international law with respect to the freedoms of navigation and the laying and maintenance of submarine cables, including territorial  seas, archipelagic waters, the exclusive economic zone, the continental shelf and the high seas.  The specific provisions that deal with submarine cables in these legal regimes will be examined.  Examples of modern applications of these provisions by States will be discussed.  Additionally, challenges for major sea power States and their use of cables such as deep sea bed mining and the new proposed treaty on biodiversity beyond waters of national jurisdiction will be highlighted.

Colloquium Speaker: Douglas Burnett

Douglas Burnett of Colorado is the Chief Counsel of the Maritime Administration in the U.S. Department of Transportation.  Mr. Burnett has practiced maritime law his entire career, most recently nine years in New York City with the transportation, shipping and logistics practice group of the law firm of Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP.  His over three decades of private practice include some sixty-four reported cases, focused on maritime litigation and arbitration involving charter parties, bills of lading, maritime casualties, and general maritime and international law of the sea. His experience includes projects for marine terminals, pipelines, deep water ports, off-shore wind, and submarine power and telecom cables.  He also acted as the international legal advisor for the International Cable Protection Committee for twenty years.

He is co-editor and co- author of Submarine Cables, the Handbook of Law and Policy (2014), Submarine Cables and Deep Seabed Mining, Advancing Common Interests and Addressing UNCLOS “Due Regard” Obligations (International Seabed Authority Technical Publication No. 14) (2015), and Submarine Cables and Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction-The Cloud Is Beneath the Sea (2017).  Additionally, he has also written thirty-eight articles on maritime law and international law of the sea.  His most recent article “Losing the Great Pacific War for Lack of Ships and Mariners” appeared in U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings (Jan. 2019)

Mr. Burnett is the Chair of the Subcommittee on International Law of the Sea of the Maritime Law Association of the United States and the former Chair of the Admiralty and Maritime Law Committee of the New York County Lawyers Association.

In 2007 he provided expert testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on accession to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the ratification of the 1984 Agreement regarding Part XI of the Convention. He has been a frequent lecturer at the Rhodes Academy on International law of the sea. 

Mr. Burnett is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy (1972-B.S.) and the University of Denver College of Law (1980-J.D.).  He spent a 30-year career on active and reserve duty with the U.S. Navy in billets afloat and ashore, including duty as an exchange officer with the Brazilian Navy and with the Military Sealift Command.  He holds the rank of Captain USN (ret.)

Mr. Burnett is married to Rosa Elena Burnett, and has two adult daughters.  He is a longtime resident of New Jersey.