Friday, October 18, 2013



File:Berner Iustitia.jpg To read the entire series so far in order of occurrence click here:


  From time to time various powers bordering on salt water seas connected to the greater mass of the high seas by relatively narrow straits or bay like "mouths" have claimed these as "closed seas". The old Soviet Union pressed this concept relative to the Black Sea and the Bosporus. Norway, Denmark, and Russia attempted to close the Baltic Sea early in the nineteenth century. The real reasoning for closed sea proposals is strategic military interests. The legal reason usually offered is that these seas are only used for transit to and from the adjacent coastal states. Such arguments never have been accepted internationally in principle or practice. The concept of a closed sea, while periodically claimed , is contrary to enduring principles of International Law. The Chinese claims to the China seas are unique in the history of such claims. China's neighboring states do not join her in any claim to the China Seas as a closed sea (ie Chinese territorial waters or in the alternative Exclusive Economic Zone) since China's claims run right up to the beach line of some of her neighbors. China is opposed in her territorial claims by most of her neighbors and her claims run counter not only to the traditional international law but to specific international conventions, some of which China is actually signatory to. China's claims are the most bold faced lawless attempt a closed seas ever seen in the history of this issue. The Chines claim is unprecedented. Prior the the Chinese claims, law suits, and illegal naval actions more recent history indicated that such claims die quietly when the perceived military necessity of the moment passes. However in the 1500s through the 1600s Great Britain fought for roughly 50 continuous years with other European powers in part over freedom of the seas.  British victories during that era helped solidify the international precedents now associated with the traditional and codified freedoms of the seas. China appears to want to revisit the issue, an attitude so out of keeping with the rest of the world and its closest neighbors that the contest could once again become one of naval arms.


 The international rules to avoid collision at sea are one of the best examples of well -codified and effectively enforced international law. The rules spelled out in international convention are adopted into the national law of most seafaring states and enforced with the full weight of the state's court system. This system is well known both to mariners ans admiralty legal professionals and needs no elaboration in this text.


 The law of armed conflict , sometimes referred to as the "rules of war", are embodied in both international convention and customary international law. The law of armed conflict applies in any theater of war or armed conflict including combat on the high seas. While widely taught to department of Defense professionals, it is not as widely known among Coast Guardsmen and admiralty legal professionals. As it applies on the high seas, territorial waters, and air space, the law of armed conflict will not be discussed in detail here, but will be addressed in separate postings later in considerable detail.


 Pollution control, fisheries management, the breath of the territorial sea, the deep seabeds, are all issues that have come to the fore in the last part of the twentieth century and as the second decade of the twenty first century nears mid way mark are still not fully resolved. These issues are being complicated by certain states unwilling to conform their seagoing practices to the enduring principals of maritime international law or even the accepted formal international conventions. These issues are interrelated and complex and eventually will be resolved against a backdrop of enduring principles of maritime international law as it relates to the high seas. The territorial sea since this work was first published in 1995 appears to be firmly fixed at 12 miles from the coastal base lines. Pollution control and fisheries management authorities of adjacent coastal states will likely extend far out to sea but in a manner that does not disrupt surface navigation without probable cause to suspect a violation. The rights of coastal states to the submerged resources of the outer continental shelf are established. Eventually the extreme legal as opposed to geological limit of the continental shelf will be defined, perhaps as a direct result of Russian claims and research in the High Arctic before the next decade is over.

 Beyond the OCS, the deep seabed is established in the commons. an international regulatory system for the deep seabed is mandated but not yet established. Research rights are ripe to be addressed by international convention.

 The nations of the world are presently facing momentous questions concerning the rational and equitable use of the world's oceans.  But there is guidance and direction visible in the enduring principles of the law of the high seas.


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