Law of The Sea by Pranav at Lexis and Company


Laws on the Sea were evolved during the time of Grotius and they were observed by the states as customary rules of International Law. The Sea is divided into three parts namely, territorial sea, contiguous zone and the high seas.

First and Second United Nations Conference on the Law of The Sea:

The General Assembly of the United Nations on February 21 1957 adopted a resolution for convening a conference on the law of the sea. The Conference was attended by 82 states and had adopted four conventions namely (i) Convention on the Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone; (ii) Convention on the High Seas; (iii) Convention on the Fishing and Conservation of Living Resources and (iv) The Convention on the Continental Shelf. All Four Conventions came into force. The most important issue which was undecided was the breadth of the territorial seas the reason was because most states did not agree on the same limit of the territorial sea. For this issue to be resolved there was a second Conference on Law of the Seas held in Geneva in 1960 but this also did not resolve the issue again due to different claims of States. States came to the conclusion that the laws formulated by the Geneva Convention were inadequate.

Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982):

The 11th Session on April 30, 1982, the conference adopted the draft of the convention on the Law of the sea by a huge majority of 130 states. It was decided that the Convention would be signed at Jamaica on December 10, 1982. The Convention has 320 articles it is divided into XVII parts and IX annexes. It lays down the rules for all parts of the Oceans.

1. TERRITORIAL SEA (formerly known as Territorial Waters)

Sovereignty of a state does not lie only with the water and land within the boundaries of a state it also includes the part of the sea adjacent to the coastal state. These waters are contained in a certain zone or belt known as the ‘Marginal belt’ or ‘Marginal zone’ the rights which a state enjoys over this coastal state is known as maritime rights. Extension of the Costal states over the Marginal belt is based on the principle that “the Land that dominates the Sea”. Territorial sea may thus be defined as that part of the sea which is adjacent to the coast over which International Law permits the Coastal states to exercise sovereignty subject only to a general right of innocent passage on the part of foreign shipping. The possession of the coastal state is neither optional nor dependent but it is Compulsory.


Contiguous Zone is that part of the sea which is beyond and adjacent to the territorial waters of a coastal state. the state cannot exercise sovereignty over this zone but it can take action to protect its revenue and other matters. Thus, police and other jurisdiction of the coastal states extend to the contiguous zone as well. The Contiguous Zone was recognized by the Geneva Convention in 1958 under article 24, para I. The limit of Contiguous zone was provided in the Geneva Convention of 1958 which says that the zone extends to 12 miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial waters of a coastal state are measured.


The term High Seas means that part of the sea which does not come under the territorial waters. This rule was formulated by Grotius in 1609 in his treatise mare liberum stating that the sea cannot be owned. He further stated “the sea is one of those things which is not an article or merchandise, and which cannot become private property”. “Hence, it follows, to speak strictly, that no part of the sea can be considered as territory of any people whatsoever”. The regime of the high seas has been constantly changing under the Convention of the Sea which states in article 86 that all those parts which are not included in the territorial sea or the exclusive economic zone will be considered as ‘high seas’.


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