Freedom of the seas

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This article is about a legal concept. For other uses, see Freedom of the Seas (disambiguation).

Freedom of the seas is a principle in the international law and law of the sea. It stresses freedom to navigate the oceans. It also disapproves of war fought in water. The freedom is to be breached only in a necessary international agreement.

Freedom of the Seas, WWII US poster

This principle was one of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points proposed during the First World War. In his speech to the Congress, the president said:

Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas, outside territorial waters, alike in peace and in war, except as the seas may be closed in whole or in part by international action for the enforcement of international covenants.

The United States' allies Britain and France were opposed to this point, as France was also a considerable naval power at the time. As with Wilson's other points, freedom of the seas was rejected by the German government.

Today, the concept of "freedom of the seas" can be found in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea" under Article 87(1) which states: "the high seas are open to all states, whether coastal or land-locked." Article 87(1) (a) to (f) gives a non-exhaustive list of freedoms including navigation, overflight, the laying of submarine cables, building artificial islands, fishing and scientific research.

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