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Welcome to RATS, an online data management system designed to improve the transparency and efficiency of the Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs’ (OPA) implementation of the marine scientific research consent regime established by the Law of the Sea Convention. Through RATS, an applicant can generate an application, track its progress, receive authorization documentation, and submit reports. RATS increases the speed with which critical information is relayed between the applicant and the official channels responsible for obtaining and/or issuing authorizations.

Applicants must obtain a RATS username and password from OPA at in order to submit an application and track its progress. First time applicants are encouraged to contact OPA with questions about the process.

RATS application and consent records are not available for public reference until after the approved research has been conducted. The resulting research data and reports are also not available for public access through RATS, however the preliminary and final report transmission dates are available to prove the applicant’s satisfaction of coastal State obligations.

Guidance to All Applicants

  • Applicants are encouraged to develop their research plans in consultation with scientists from the coastal State(s).
  • It is the responsibility of either the chief scientist or his/her sponsoring organization to seek coastal State consent through OPA in a timely fashion; the Law of the Sea Convention states that applications must be received by the coastal State no later than six months prior to the expected starting date of the marine scientific research, however many coastal States will accept applications with less than six (6) months’ lead time, but not less than three (3) months’ lead time.
  • A file number will be assigned to the application and provided to the applicant. This file number should be referenced by the applicant in all written and oral correspondence with OPA.
  • All files uploaded to RATS must be in Portable Document Format (.pdf). File names should be concise and should not include punctuation or diacritical marks.
  • Should the information submitted in the original application change during the course of the application review process or after authorization is granted, the applicant must report these changes to OPA as soon as possible. OPA will seek revised authorization as necessary.
  • It is the responsibility of the chief scientist to obtain and possess during the research a valid Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) collection permit, if applicable. CITES permits must be obtained via the CITES National Focal Point .
  • After the research is conducted, the chief scientist must submit a Preliminary Report Form [14 KB] and a Final Report through RATS. The Preliminary Report Form must be submitted no later than 90 days following the end date of the authorized research, and the Final Report must be submitted to OPA no later than two years following the end date of the authorized research. Failure to meet these reporting deadlines will impact other applications awaiting authorization.

Guidance to Applicants Seeking U.S. Consent

  • The advance consent of the United States is required for MSR conducted within the U.S. territorial sea, within the U.S. EEZ, and on the U.S. continental shelf.  With respect to the U.S. territorial sea and U.S. EEZ, applicants may identify these maritime areas using  U.S. Maritime Limits and Boundaries , an information system created by NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey.  With respect to the U.S. continental shelf, its seaward extent may extend beyond 200 nautical miles from the territorial sea baseline, in accordance with Article 76 of the Law of the Sea Convention.  The United States is in the process of establishing the outer limits of its continental shelf in areas beyond 200 nautical miles.  Until those outer limits are published, applicants should direct questions to OPA at, particularly with respect to any MSR conducted on the U.S. continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from the territorial sea baselines in the following areas:
    • In the Arctic Ocean, on the U.S. side of the U.S.-Russia maritime boundary in the following areas: the Chukchi Shelf, Chukchi Borderland, Canada Basin, and Nautilus Basin;
    • In the Atlantic Ocean, within 350 nautical miles of the U.S. territorial sea baselines;
    • In the Bering Sea, on the U.S. side of the U.S.-Russia maritime boundary;
    • In the Gulf of Mexico, on the U.S. side of the U.S-Mexico and U.S.-Cuba maritime boundaries;
  • Applications should be submitted to OPAat least six (6) months prior to the start of the research such that the United States can assure a timely response.
  • Applications submitted less than four (4) months or sixteen (16) weeks before the intended start date will not be accepted. 
  • Applicants must submit their application through their embassy to the United States.
  • Applications must be submitted by the embassy via RATS, and include at a minimum the following attachments:
    • Map of the proposed cruise track without foreign coastal State limits or boundaries (U.S. maritime limits and boundaries  are acceptable)
    • List of research site coordinates
    • Crew and science party list, indicating the name, email, phone number, nationality, date of birth, and passport number of each person on board. Scanned seaman’s books or a scan of the crew manifest is acceptable for the crew members.
    • Curriculum vitaes (CVs) of all scientific researchers participating in the cruise. One PDF combining all the CVs will suffice.

Guidance to Applicants Seeking Foreign Consent

  • Applicants must submit their application through the research platform operator’s office that should verify platform availability and identify, as applicable, planned port visits where publicity and goodwill activities may be scheduled.
  • Supporting documentation in Portable Document Format (pdf) should be uploaded to RATS. File names should be concise and should not include punctuation or diacritical marks.
  • OPA will make every effort to obtain a response from the foreign authorities prior to the start of the research.
  • Applicants should NOT contact any Foreign Ministry or U.S. embassy during the application process, unless permission is expressly granted by OPA to do so.
  • Applicants should not depict any maritime boundaries or claims in their rendering of the research area, tracklines and stations.
  • Applicants should contact OPA if there is question as to whether the proposed research falls within one or more maritime boundary or claim. Other recommended sources include:
    • Maritime  Zones and Maritime Delimitation   – the United Nations Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS) listing of national legislation and treaties regarding the delimitation of maritime boundaries.
    • Maritime Claims Reference Manual   – U.S. Department of Defense list of claims made by coastal nations.
    • Limits in the Seas – the Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs’ series, which aims to examine coastal States’ maritime claims and/or boundaries and assess their consistency with international law.
    • U.S. Board on Geographic Names  – U.S. inter-agency body established to maintain uniform foreign and domestic geographic name usage throughout the Federal Government
  • Prior to departure, applicants should review information resources available regarding both sea-based and land-based security issues (for example, see the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System’s Maritime Security Links ). See also:
  • Information regarding importation of scientific specimens can be found at Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service   – bureau within the U.S. Department of Agriculture that provides agricultural producers with a broad range of cooperative programs for protecting the health of animals and plants.

U.S. Department of State

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