Trading on the Offshore: Territorialization and the Ocean Grab in the International Seabed

  • Anna Zalik
Part of the International Political Economy Series book series (IPES)


Property relations in oceans have a complex history, shaped in part by the deep seas’ distance from processes of territorialization on land. While the national marking of some coastal space through the largely accepted, if not universally ratified, premises of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) sets specific territorial extensions for states, the metaphorical and practical fluidity of oceans exemplify how their care is essentially an issue of global governance (Steinberg 2001). The oceans are the quintessential commons onto which contaminants and wastes can be externalized (Clapp 2002); the reduced social relations on those spaces distinguish them as a frontier zone, removed from terrestrial relations. The offshore, and particularly the ‘deep’ offshore, is isolated from human settlements. This places a physical limit on the capacity of external, and even internal, actors to observe and account for the rush to extraction there. Indeed, the marine zone offers spaces freer from public disruption and constant forms of social accountability than on land. As applied to finance, the term offshore refers to regions where state oversight and regulatory rules are attenuated (Hudson 2000, Cameron and Palan 2004).


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