Territorial Waters

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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.

Cross-references

Law of the Sea; Navigable Waters.

References in periodicals archive ?
While the UNCLOS defines, among others, the limits of the territorial sea, contiguous zone and the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of a coastal or archipelagic State, there was a lack of effort on the part of the Philippines to assert its territories by law.
The United States formerly defined its contiguous zone as a zone seaward of and adjacent to its territorial sea extending to 12 nautical miles from the baselines of the United States determined in accordance with international law.
Posner and Sykes think that the contiguous zone is a zone of water contiguous to the territorial sea (its width is twelve nautical miles).
The Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone provides that the sovereignty of a nation extends to a belt of sea adjacent to its coast, described as the territorial sea.
TOKYO -- Japan lodged a protest with China on Thursday after Chinese Navy ships entered a contiguous zone adjacent to what Tokyo considers its territorial waters in the East China Sea.
Second, it also ruled as unlawful the Chinese incursions into our Unclos-recognized maritime zones, namely, our 12-nautical-mile (NM) territorial sea (TS), 24-NM contiguous zone (CZ), 200-NM exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and 350-NM extended continental shelf (ECS).
Phase 2 concerns the treatment of the contiguous zone in the crche.
More than 200 fishing boats, as well as six Chinese coast guard ships, were sailing in a contiguous zone near the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands, Tokyo said.
Ambassador Andreas Jacovides, lecturing at the Academy onJuly 8, on the topic "Regime of Islands", stressed the importance of Article 121 of the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention which establishes that islands are in the same position in terms of entitlement to the zones of maritime jurisdiction (territorial sea, contiguous zone, continental shelf, exclusive economic zone) as continental territories.
The authors cover the history and sources of the International Law of the Sea, as well as its impacts on the territorial sea and the contiguous zone, the exclusive economic zone, the continental shelf, and several other related concepts.
The maritime zones of the country shall be comprised of the internal waters, archipelagic waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf.
Eight Chinese ships spent several hours in the islands' territorial waters on Tuesday and four remained in the contiguous zone on Wednesday, Japanese officials said.