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Maritime Zones and World Geopolitics

With the sustained efforts of U.N.O., we finally converged to a point acceptable to all most all. However, growing relevance of sea route, ocean resources and strategic significance of oceans have again increased rivalry over oceans.

Maritime zones as defined by U.N.C.L.O.S. 

  1. Internal Water- The sea water lying between coast line and base line is called internal water which is never contiguous i.e. it covers all water and waterways on the landward side of the baseline. The coastal state is free to set laws, regulate use, and use any resource. Foreign vessels have no right of passage within internal waters.
  2. Territorial Water—it extends up to 12 nautical miles from the base line. The coastal state is free to set laws, regulate use, and use any resource. Vessels were given the right of innocent passage through any territorial waters, with strategic straits allowing the passage of military craft as transit passage, in that naval vessels are allowed to maintain postures that would be illegal in territorial waters. “Innocent passage” is defined by the convention as passing through waters in an expeditious and continuous manner, which is not “prejudicial to the peace, good order or the security” of the coastal state. Fishing, polluting, weapons practice, and spying are not “innocent”, and submarines and other underwater vehicles are required to navigate on the surface and to show their flag. Nations can also temporarily suspend innocent passage in specific areas of their territorial seas, if doing so is essential for the protection of its security. The coastal nation has both political & economic control over it.
  3. Archipelagic waters- The convention set the definition of Archipelagic States in Part IV, which also defines how the state can draw its territorial borders. A baseline is drawn between the outermost points of the outermost islands, subject to these points being sufficiently close to one another. All waters inside this baseline are designated Archipelagic Waters. The state has full sovereignty over these waters (like internal waters), but foreign vessels have right of innocent passage through archipelagic waters (like territorial waters).
  4. Contiguous/Pursuit zone—the contiguous portion of sea water up to 12 nautical miles from territorial limit or 24 nautical miles from base line is called contiguous zone. A state can continue to enforce laws in four specific areas: customs, taxation, immigration and pollution, if the infringement started within the state’s territory or territorial waters, or if this infringement is about to occur within the state’s territory or territorial waters. Coastal nation has the right to punish the guilty party within the contiguous zone. This makes the contiguous zone a hot pursuit.
  5. Exclusive Economic Zone—it extends up to 200 nautical miles from the baseline. The concerned coastal states have the exclusive right of survey, exploitation and conservation of Biotic and A-biotic resources within EEZ.  No other country can venture in any economic activity in EEZ of other country.  However, other nation can lay sub-Marine cables, sail their ships and fly airplane over it.
  6. Continental ShelfThe continental shelf is defined as the natural prolongation of the land territory to the continental margin’s outer edge, or 200 nautical miles (370 km) from the coastal state’s baseline, whichever is greater. A state’s continental shelf may exceed 200 nautical miles (370 km) until the natural prolongation ends. However, it may never exceed 350 nautical miles (650 kilometres; 400 miles) from the baseline; or it may never exceed 100 nautical miles (190 kilometres; 120 miles) beyond the 2,500 meter isobath (the line connecting the depth of 2,500 meters). Coastal states have the right to harvest mineral and non-living material in the subsoil of its continental shelf, to the exclusion of others. Coastal states also have exclusive control over living resources “attached” to the continental shelf, but not to creatures living in the water column beyond the exclusive economic zone.
  7. High Sea—it extends beyond EEZ and all nations have equal right of navigation, aviation, fishing, mining exploration and scientific research.

Part XI of the UNCLOS provides for a regime relating to minerals on the seabed outside any state’s territorial waters or EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zones). It establishes an Internal Seabed Authority (ISA) to authorize seabed exploration and mining and collect and distribute the seabed mining royalty.

The United States objected to the provisions of Part XI of the Convention on several grounds, arguing that the treaty was unfavorable to American economic and security interests. Due to Part XI, the United States refused to ratify the UNCLOS, although it expressed agreement with the remaining provisions of the Convention.

Organizations/ Conventions associated with the Maritime Zones

a) United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea(U.N.C.L.O.S.)

It is also called the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea Treaty.
It resulted from the third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III), which took place between 1973 and 1982 and replaced four 1958 treaties.
It came into force in 1994; a year after Guyana became the 60th nation to sign the treaty. As of October 2012, 164 countries and the European Union have joined in the Convention.
It defines the rights and responsibilities of nations in their use of the world’s oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources.
The convention introduced a number of provisions. The most significant issues covered were setting limits, navigation, archipelagic status and transit regimes, Exclusive Economic Zones (E.E.Z.), continental shelf jurisdiction, deep seabed mining, the exploitation regime, protection of the marine environment, scientific research, and settlement of disputes.

 b) The International Maritime Organisation

The International Maritime Organization (IMO), known as the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO) until 1982, was established in Geneva in 1948, and came into force ten years later, meeting for the first time in 1959.
It is headquartered in London.
It is a specialized agency of the UNO with 170 Member States and three Associate Members.
Its primary purpose is to develop and maintain a comprehensive regulatory framework for shipping and it covers safety, environmental concerns, legal matters, technical co-operation, maritime security and the efficiency of shipping.

c) The International Whaling Commission  

It is an international body set up by the terms of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling which was signed in Washington D.C., on 2 December 1946.
It provides for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry
In 1982 the IWC adopted a moratorium on commercial whaling. This is being opposed by Japan, Russia, and others.
The IWC allows non-zero whaling quotas for aboriginal subsistence and also member nations may issue ‘Scientific Permits’ to their citizens.
Japan has issued such permits since 1986. Norway and Iceland objects to the moratorium and issue their own quotas. In 1994, the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary was created by the IWC

d) International Seabed Authority

It is an intergovernmental organization established by the Law of Sea Convention.
It is based in Kingston, Jamaica.
It was established to organize and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, an area underlying most of the world’s oceans.

 Disputes to be continued in the next publication

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