Territorial Waters

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Related to Territorial sea: Contiguous zone, Exclusive Economic Zone, UNCLOS

Territorial Waters

The part of the ocean adjacent to the coast of a state that is considered to be part of the territory of that state and subject to its sovereignty.

In International Law the term territorial waters refers to that part of the ocean immediately adjacent to the shores of a state and subject to its territorial jurisdiction. The state possesses both the jurisdictional right to regulate, police, and adjudicate the territorial waters and the proprietary right to control and exploit natural resources in those waters and exclude others from them. Territorial waters differ from the high seas, which are common to all nations and are governed by the principle of freedom of the seas. The high seas are not subject to appropriation by persons or states but are available to everyone for navigation, exploitation of resources, and other lawful uses. The legal status of territorial waters also extends to the seabed and subsoil under them and to the airspace above them.

From the eighteenth to the middle of the twentieth century, international law set the width of territorial waters at one league (three nautical miles), although the practice was never wholly uniform. The United States established a three-mile territorial limit in 1793. International law also established the principle that foreign ships are entitled to innocent passage through territorial waters.

By the 1970s, however, more than forty countries had asserted a twelve-mile limit for their territorial waters. In 1988 President ronald reagan issued Executive Proclamation 5928, which officially increased the outer limit of U.S. territorial waters from three to twelve miles (54 Fed. Reg. 777). This limit also applies to Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands. The Reagan administration claimed the extension of the limit was primarily motivated by national security concerns, specifically to hinder the operations of spy vessels from the Soviet Union that plied the U.S. coastline. Another reason for the extension was the recognition that most countries had moved to a twelve-mile limit. In 1982, at the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, 130 member countries ratified the Convention on the Law of the Sea, which included a recognition of the twelve-mile limit as a provision of customary international law. Although the United States voted against the convention, 104 countries had officially claimed a twelve-mile territorial sea by 1988.


Law of the Sea; Navigable Waters.

References in periodicals archive ?
While the EU heralds the Operation Sophia territorial sea component as a humanitarian endeavor, this Comment urges caution.
The Tribunal's ruling significantly reduces the extent of disputed waters in the South China Sea, restricting them to pockets of contested territorial sea surrounding islands, sovereignty over which is disputed.
And, crucially, even if all of China's sovereignty claims in the South China Sea were one day accepted -- whether through negotiation, arbitration or adjudication -- the total area, including territorial sea, EEZs, and continental-shelf rights, would still not approach the size of the vast zone encompassed by the nine-dash line.
This definition made a clear distinction between territorial sea and EEZ, wherein while the former conferred full sovereignty over waters adjoining its coast up to twelve nautical miles limit, the later conferred 'sovereign rights' below the surface of the sea.
17) In addition, federal district courts have affirmed that "rights that the United States enjoys in its EEZ [Exclusive Economic Zone] and continental shelf are 'functional in character, limited to specific activities,'" (18) and that "[a]ll countries recognize that a coastal state possesses sovereignty or territorial jurisdiction within" its territorial sea.
A vessel in innocent passage may traverse the coastal state's territorial sea continuously and expeditiously, not stopping or anchoring except in force majeure (superior or irresistible power) situations.
The Second Committee as assigned to study the archipelagic principles, the territorial sea, the contiguous zone, the continental shelf, the exclusive economic zone, the high seas, land-locked countries, shelf-locked states and states with narrow shelves or short coastlines.
As many fall within existing territorial seas or, as Beijing has argued, form part of larger archipelagos whose sovereign status is contested, determining their nature - island, rock or low-tide elevation - is a legal and political minefield.
The coastguards intercepted a 10-meter boat off the territorial sea while sinking, the same source indicates.
Namibia submitted a bid to extend its territorial sea area on 12 May 2009.
In 1958, China announced it had set 12 nautical miles as the width of its territorial sea and the Xisha Islands were included.
In both English and French, it details the procedural history; the submissions of the parties; the factual background; the subject matter of the dispute; the jurisdiction; the applicable law; judgments on the territorial sea and its delimitation, the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf within 200 nautical miles, and the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles; the disproportionality test; the delimitation line; and operative clauses.