National Waters

Sociology | Mercantile Law | International Law | International Relations

As far as the ‘National Waters’ are concerned; every coastal state has exclusive sovereignty over the defined part of the sea. This is the vast topic of International Law that went through a number of developments in the 20th century but still its certain aspects are victim of controversy. Following dimensions are worth mentioning here;

What is Maritime Belt?
‘Maritime Belt or Territorial Waters is that belt of the sea which is adjacent to the coastal state and under its sovereignty.’

Breadth of Maritime Belt
Breadth of Maritime Belt has been a burning issue of international law for quite a long time. Beginning from the views of jurist Bynkershock that, ‘breadth of maritime belt extends to the distance where a cannon can fire (approx. 3 miles)’; the time of Grotius came who believed that, ‘breadth of maritime belt is to the extent to which a state can exercise its control.’

Thus, 3rd UN Conference on the Law of Sea reached a conclusion that the breadth of maritime belt exclusive for a state would be 12 Nautical Miles when after in 1958 Geneva Conference on Law of Sea and 1930’s Hague Conference did not reach a consensus over the issue.

Article 3 of UN Convention on Law of Sea
“Every State has the right to establish the breadth of its territorial sea up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles, measured from baselines determined in accordance with this Convention”.

Restriction on State in Delimitating Maritime Belt’s Breadth
In accordance with the provisions of the UN Convention on Law of Sea it was held in ‘Anglo Norwegian Fisheries Case’; “States are not completely free in respect of delimitation of territorial waters with regard to the other state”.

Maritime Belt is subject to Exclusive State Sovereignty
In the deciding the ‘Corfu Channel Case’ the court held; “Maritime Belt is the exclusive territory of a state and it can prevent the ships to pass through it even during a war”.

Further, a state may make any sort of laws in order to regulate the passage of ships through its territorial sea. Naval Forces are maintained to guard this part of state territory.

Innocent Passage through Maritime Belt
Pursuing the customary international practice and not obstructing the path of trade; Article 17 of the said Convention secures right of ‘Innocent Passage’ through the territorial sea. It states that; “Ships of all States, whether coastal or land-locked, enjoy the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea”.

‘Innocent Passage’ has been thoroughly defined in the subsequent articles of the same statute. The ‘passage’ is to be in conformity with the laws of the state which has sovereignty over the sea territory.