The Extent of the Legislative Powers and Enforcement Jurisdiction of Coastal States over Foreign Vessels in Its Contiguous Zon

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  • Topic: United States, Exclusive Economic Zone, Territorial waters
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  • Published : May 4, 2013
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The Extent of the Legislative Powers and Enforcement Jurisdiction of Coastal States over foreign vessels in its contiguous zone

Introduction
The practice of exercising control over areas of the high seas contiguous to the territorial seas dates back to more than 200 years. This zone of sea found contiguous and seaward of the territorial sea is known as the contiguous zone. This zone is a buffer area where coastal states practiced limited enforcement powers over foreign vessels found ‘hovering’ on areas of waters outside of the territorial sea, on matters concerning economic, immigration and sanitary interests. This paper will examine the concept of the contiguous zone and determine the extent of the legislative and enforcement jurisdiction of the coastal state over foreign vessels found within the zone. This paper will illustrate earliest development of the concept and its practice by states but will dwell mainly on how it is interpreted in the light of the pertinent provisions of the 1958 Geneva High Seas Convention and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This essay covers different sections pertaining to the concept of the contiguous zone and its practice. This include early development of the contiguous zone, the geographical scope of the contiguous zone, juridical nature of the contiguous zone,, preventive and punitive controls of the coastal state, the contiguous zone and historical objects at sea, the contiguous zone and security interests, the contiguous zone and hot pursuit, the contiguous zone and the EEZ and a section on state practice on the contiguous zone. The section on state practice will cover several African states from Asia and the south Pacific, Europe, Latin America and Caribbean and a brief description of the Australian practice. The last portion of the paper is the conclusion. Early Development of the Contiguous zone

The earliest laws pertaining to extension of coastal state jurisdiction to areas beyond the territorial seas were the Hoverings Act enacted by United Kingdom in 1736 and the Act of 1799 enacted by the United States of America. The Hoverings Act targeted vessels engaged in contraband beyond the territorial seas, while the Act of 1799 allowed US revenue Officers to board and search foreign vessels bound for US ports within 12 miles of the coast. Decades after, France, Belgium and the Latin American countries caught up with the idea and came up with their own custom zones. The first real attempt however for the international adoption of the concept came during the Hague Conference in 193. This initial attempt however failed due to a lack of support, but in 1958 at the Geneva Conference, the subject of the Contiguous zone was again reopened and eventually gained approval. Initially, the Geneva Convention set a 12-mile limit as the breadth contiguous zone but this was later changed to 24 miles during the Law of the Sea (LOSC) Convention of 1982. The expansion of the contiguous zone is advantageous for the coastal state but to others this is just a manifestation of a coastal states’ way of ‘flirting with extraterritoriality’. Bardin wrote on an article about coastal state jurisdiction over foreign vessels that over the years, the 1982 LOSC gave coastal states sovereignty in varying degrees over the different maritime zones of the sea. Moreover, the Convention also gave coastal states varying degrees of jurisdictions over foreign vessels depending on its location in the maritime zones. Geographical Scope of the Contiguous Zone

The breadth of the Contiguous zone
The modern day interpretation of the contiguous zone is based on two conventions, the 1982 LOSC or UNCLOS III and the Geneva High Seas Convention of 1958. Article 33 of the LOSC defines the contiguous zone as a zone contiguous to the territorial sea where the coastal state “...may exercise control to prevent and punish infringement of its customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws and regulations within...
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