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Law of the Sea

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HomeBrud.gifInternational LawBrud.gifLaw of the Sea

Territorial Waters: The Sovereignty of a State extends beyond the land territory and its internal waters to an extent of sea belt adjacent to the coast. The sovereignty extends on the airspace over the territorial waters also. Territorial waters are also called Maritime Belt.

  • The 1958 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea is the first serious attempt to codify the law related to the Seas. However, the UN

Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982 (UNCLOS) is regarded as the most successful steps towards setting up the various aspects of this law.

  • Before the 1958 Convention, the Cannon-Shot Rule was followed. According to this rule, the sovereignty extends to a reach of a cannon-shot. This is roughly 3 miles to 200 miles.
  • States shall enjoy the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea. passage includes stopping and anchoring but in so far as the same are incident to ordinary navigation or are rendered necessary by force majeure or by distress.
  • Article 15 says that the coastal states are required to give appropriate publicity to any dangers to navigation of which it has knowledge within its territorial sea.
  • Article 16 says that coastal state may take necessary steps in its territorial sea to prevent any passage which is not innocent
  • Article 17 says that ships in innocent passage have to comply with the laws and regulations enacted by the coastal State in conformity with international norms.
  • Article 19 of Geneva Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, 1958 says that criminal jurisdiction of the coastal state should not be exercised on board a foreign ship passing through the territorial sea to arrest any person or to conduct an investigation in connection with any crime committed on board the ship during its passage except when:
    • the consequences of the crime extend to the coast
    • the crime is of a kind to disturb the peace of the country or the good order of the territorial sea or
    • the assistance of the local authorities is requested by the captain of the ship or by the consul of the country whose flag the ship flies or
    • it is necessary for the suppression of illicit traffic in narcotics drugs
  • US and Iran are non-parties to UNCLOS. However, they are bound to follow UNCLOS because UNCLOS represents customary international law.

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