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Laws of the Sea - Understanding the 3 Conventions & 5 Zones

Law of Sea

UN Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS): Navigational rights, territorial sea limits, economic jurisdiction, legal status of resources on the seabed beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, passage of ships through narrow straits, conservation and management of living marine resources, protection of the marine environment, a marine research regime and settlement of disputes between States - these are among the important features of the treaty.

Convention is an unprecedented attempt by the international community to regulate all aspects of the resources of the sea and uses of the ocean, and thus bring a stable order to mankind's very source of life.

Law of the Sea Convention

UNCLOS I - Geneva, Switzerland

  • Convention on Territorial Sea & Contiguous Zone - 10th September 1964

  • Convention on Continental Shelf - 10th June 1964

  • Convention on High Seas - 30th September 1962

  • Convention on Fishing & Conservation of Living Resources of High Seas - 20th March 1966

Internal Waters

  • Water and waterways on the landward side of the baseline

  • Coastal state free to set laws, regulate use, and use any resource

  • Foreign vessels no right of passage

Territorial Waters

  • Out to 12 nautical miles (22 kilometres) from baseline

  • Coastal state free to set laws, regulate use, and use any resource.

  • Vessels given the right of innocent passage

  • Strategic straits allowing the passage of military craft as transit passage

  • Underwater vehicles required to navigate on the surface and to show their flag.

  • Nations can temporarily suspend innocent passage

Archipelagic Waters

  • A baseline is drawn between the outermost points of the outermost islands

  • Subject to points being sufficiently close to one another.

  • Waters inside baseline designated Archipelagic.

  • Foreign vessels have right of innocent passage through archipelagic waters.

Contiguous Zone

  • Beyond the 12-nautical-mile limit, there is further 12 nautical miles (22 km)- contiguous zone

  • Continue to enforce laws in: customs, taxation, immigration and pollution

Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs)

  • Extend 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres) from baseline.

  • Coastal nation has sole exploitation rights.

  • Term includes territorial sea and continental shelf.

Continental Shelf

  • Continental shelf is natural prolongation of the land territory to the continental margin's outer edge, or 200 nautical miles (370 km) from baseline, whichever is greater.

  • Continental shelf may exceed 200 nautical miles (370 km) until the natural prolongation ends.

  • May never exceed 350 nautical miles (650 kilometres) from the baseline

  • May never exceed 100 nautical miles (190 kilometres) beyond the 2,500-meter isobath.

  • Right to harvest mineral and non-living material in the subsoil of its continental shelf

  • Exclusive control over living resources "attached" to the continental shelf