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Law enforcement in the ocean

— An overview

Abstract

The combating of the present great variety of criminal activities occurring at sea mainly involves measures to be taken on land, in particular in ports.However, also actual enforcement at sea will continue to play an essential (complementary) role. This article surveys the rules of international law governing law enforcement measures at sea. These rules are complex, because distinctions have to be made between the various jurisdictional zones at sea and between the positions of the flag state, the coastal state and the port state. Traditionally, ships in the high seas (all sea areas beyond a narrow band of territorial sea) were under the exclusive jurisdiction of the flag state. In an increasing number of situations, the coastal state now has law enforcement authority over foreign ships in expanded areas up to 200 nautical miles offshore. But apart from these situations, flag state jurisdiction still prevails beyond the territorial sea. This makes effective law enforcement difficult. In practice, many obstacles can be overcome by making more effective use of the authority of the port state, and by concluding new international agreements providing for specific enforcement systems.

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References

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Soons, A.H.A. Law enforcement in the ocean. WMU J Marit Affairs 3, 3–16 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03195046

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03195046

Key words

  • international law
  • law of the sea
  • law enforcement
  • jurisdiction