The Law of the Sea
In this paper I am going to give an overview over the Law of the Sea with an emphasis on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in connection with the examples of innocent passage and Exclusive Economic Zones. As well I am going to give a glimpse into the topics of the International Seabed Authority, and the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea.
The law of the sea is a part of international law that deals with breaches of the public law on the sea. A big part of the law of the sea is codified in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which was signed on December 10th in 1982. The sometimes so called “constitution of the sea” has the main task to define international law regarding ocean resources, territorial waters and sea lanes. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
Although the convention exists since December 10th 1982, it first came into force on November 16th 1994, when 60 member states ratified it. Today it has been ratified by around 150 countries all over the world. In the same year, on July 28th, the Agreement relating to the implementation of Part XI of the Convention was created. Also this agreement did not enter into force immediately; it took exactly 2 years (from July 28th 1994 to July 28th 1996) until it entered into force. What also should be mentioned is that these achievements would most likely not exist, if there was not the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, which is the initial point for all the following agreements. The conference took place in New York in the Year 1979 and has as a direct outcome the 1982 convention. During those nine years, shutting back and forth between New York and Geneva, representatives of more than 160 sovereign states sat down and discussed the issues, bargained, and traded national rights and obligations in the course of the marathon negotiations that produced the convention. The territorial sea of States consists of the waters surrounding a State’s territory and including its bays, gulfs, and straits. The convention regulates for example the sovereign territorial waters each country has at its deposal. According to it, each country can call the maximum of 22 kilometers beyond its coast as its own sovereign territory. But although these 22 kilometers are part of a country’s territory, there is the right of innocent passage for foreign watercrafts. Innocent Passage
A passage is considered as innocent, as long as a vessel abstains from performing any prohibited activities. Examples for such forbidden actions are spying, smuggling, scientific research, weapons testing, fishing and others. If territorial waters are part of international navigation, these rights of foreign shipping are prior to the rights of innocent passage, which provides these ships with more rights. The topic of passage was also a big point at the Third United Nations Conference on the Sea, where it came to a conflict of interest between naval powers and minor coastal states. The naval powers wanted the straits to have the same legal position than international waters as well as free passage through them. But the opposition dealt with the fact, that the close passage of military vessel could mean danger for the national security of these countries and make them become contributors to any military action, so they disagreed with that. So there was made the idea that straits were still territorial seas, but granted free passage to warships under the category of innocent passage, since innocent passage is a by-word for peaceful behavior. Here again the naval powers disagreed, because for fulfilling the criteria of innocent passage they would need to show their flag on the vessel, which would be a high risk in war times. In fact, the issue of passage through straits was one of the early driving forces behind the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, when, in early 1967, the United States and the...
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