PhD Defense: International Law and Offshore Energy Production


Nikolaos Giannopoulos succesfuly defend his dissertation on the Law of the Sea, international law and environmental protection at Utrecht University on November 2, 2020. It is entitled: International Law and Offshore Energy Production: Marine Environmental Protection through Normative Interactions.


Against the backdrop of the convoluted international legal framework regulating offshore energy production, the research examines how the standard of marine environmental protection is shaped through normative interactions between UNCLOS and other relevant international and supra-national instruments.

To that end, the thesis explores legal mechanisms that govern normative interactions in international law, and in particular, interactions within the context of the law of the sea. This study considers that the fragmentation of the applicable legal framework and the ensuing normative interactions do not unavoidably lead to normative conflicts. Instead, it posits that the interplay between UNCLOS and the relevant global and regional instruments can shape and enhance the level of marine environmental protection required of States in regulating offshore energy production activities.

The manuscript looks into the normative implications of both inter- and intra-systemic normative interactions for the interpretation and implementation of the duty to protect and preserve the marine environment. In respect of intra-systemic interactions, it studies how global and regional environmental agreements can add flesh to the bare bones of the dynamic but simultaneously laconic environmental framework under UNCLOS.

The first part examines the interplay between UNCLOS and instruments of global remit that directly or indirectly regulate offshore energy production. Apart from the global environmental agreements, the international environmental regulation of offshore energy production is equally affected by other international obligations of States, such as the duty to protect foreign investments under international investment agreements. The second part of the thesis delves into a comparative analysis of the rules and standards established in the context of four selected marine regions.