Territorial Waters

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Related to Territorial seas: Contiguous zone

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 ?
State Department pronouncements recognizing the internationally accepted outer boundaries of the territorial seas of the world's maritime countries.
Although this study concludes that the waterway of Head Harbor Passage is most accurately characterized as territorial seas (overlapped by the navigational regime appurtenant to a dead-end strait--innocent passage that may not be suspended by the coastal state), it also makes the case that the legal character of the water as either internal water or territorial sea is immaterial to the conclusion that the passage constitutes a dead-end strait.
including the territorial sea, are measured from the low water mark
If Somali pirates hijack a vessel in the Somali territorial sea, this act would not qualify as piracy under UNCLOS.
of existing technology, and the extent to which territorial seas and
while territorial seas are a belt of ocean that is measured seaward up
135) The expansion of territorial seas and the attendant exclusion of foreign warships (136)--except for purposes of transit--naturally crippled the capacity for an international response to piratical activity.
The UN Conference on the Law of the Sea 1958, and subsequently the UNCLOS, describe the continental shelf as "the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas adjacent to the coast but outside the area of the territorial sea, to a depth of 200 meters, or, beyond that limit, to where the depth of the superjacent waters admits of the exploitation of the natural resources of the said areas.
4) The same acts committed within the internal waters, territorial sea, or national airspace of a country are within that nation's domestic jurisdiction.
52) The agreement on the delimitation of the territorial seas, EEZs and continental shelves in the Beibu Gulf (Gulf of Tonkin) between the PRC and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was signed on 25 December 2000 and went into force on 30 June 2004.
Statutory language in the Clean Water Act references "navigable waters," which is defined as "waters of the United States, including the territorial seas.