Announcement of Brennan Prize Winner: Jack McNally, ‘Restrictions on the Freedom of Navigation in the Northern Sea Route: Implications for Arcticus Liberum’

The Australian Branch of the International Law Association is pleased to announce the winner of the 2021 Brennan Essay Prize in Public International Law. The Brennan Prize is named for Sir Gerard Brennan AC KBE QBS QC, former Chief Justice of Australia and Patron of the Branch. Sir Gerard was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1981 and appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia in recognition of his service to the law in 1988.

The winner of the 2021 Brennan Prize is Jack McNally, for his paper ‘Restrictions on the Freedom of Navigation in the Northern Sea Route: Implications for Arcticus Liberum’. Mr McNally is a final year Bachelor of Arts (International Relations) / Bachelor of Laws (Honours) student at the University of New South Wales. He currently works as a Research Assistant at UNSW Law, where his research focusses on public international law, the law of the sea and international dispute settlement, and as a Law Clerk in the International Arbitration Group of King & Wood Mallesons. The Australian Branch of the International Law Association expresses its congratulations to Mr McNally on his successful entry.

Mr McNally

The abstract for the paper is included below:

The freedom of navigation is one of the fundamental principles of international order. However, as the effects of anthropogenic climate change grow greater and the extent of Arctic sea ice continues to decline, a question arises as to whether, and to what degree, the freedom of navigation applies in formerly ice-covered areas. This question is not an abstract one. Arctic States have asserted extensive sovereign rights over formerly ice-covered shipping routes, imposing restrictions on the freedom of navigation of both merchant vessels and warships. Whether these restrictions are valid impositions on the freedom of navigation is an unresolved question, complicated by the genuine interests of littoral States in the protection of the Arctic’s highly sensitive marine environment. If, however, these restrictions are acquiesced in by the international community, they may operate to restrict the freedom of navigation and diminish its content in formerly ice-covered areas. Accordingly, there is a need for States to strike a balance between permitting restrictions on the freedom of navigation that pursue environmental protection, while contesting those that exceed what is permitted under international law. This article seeks to provide the necessary legal framework to enable States to undertake that balancing exercise and to, in turn, ensure the Arctic remains mare liberum.