Defining Maritime Law
Maritime Law, also known as Admiralty Law, governs nautical issues and private maritime disputes. It covers matters including marine navigation, marine commerce, shipping, sailors, and the transportation of goods and passengers.
Understanding International Waters
International waters, or the high seas, begin at 200 nautical miles from a country's coastline. Beyond this boundary, no state may claim sovereignty, making these waters subject to universal laws agreed upon by international treaties.
UNCLOS: The Maritime Constitution
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is often termed the 'Constitution for the Oceans.' It defines nations' rights and responsibilities regarding ocean use, including navigation, environmental control, and resource management.
Piracy: International Concern
Piracy, defined as acts of robbery and criminal violence at sea, remains a significant international concern. Maritime Law prescribes universal jurisdiction, allowing any state to capture and prosecute pirates, regardless of where the crime occurred.
Salvage and Treasure Laws
Salvage laws reward those who aid in recovering another's ship or cargo after distress at sea. Intriguingly, found shipwrecks may fall under 'finders, keepers' if outside territorial waters, unless classified as cultural heritage under UNESCO.
Maritime Zones and Jurisdiction
Maritime boundaries include Territorial Waters, Contiguous Zones, Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), and the Continental Shelf. Each zone has distinct laws governing passage, resource exploitation, and environmental protection.
One of the most fundamental principles is 'freedom of navigation.' This allows ships of all states to traverse international waters and exclusive economic zones freely, but with respect for the sovereignty of coastal states' territorial waters.