Law of the sea
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Law of the Sea is a body of international law that concerns the principles and rules by which public entities, especially states, interact in maritime matters, including navigational rights, sea mineral rights, and coastal waters jurisdiction. It is the public law counterpart to admiralty law, which concerns private maritime intercourse. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or "UNCLOS", concluded in 1982 and put into force in 1994, is generally accepted as a codification of customary international law of the sea.
Disputes are resolved at the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (or "ITLOS"), a court in Hamburg. In 2017, ITLOS celebrated 20 years of existence, during which time it had settled some 25 cases. The Tribunal has jurisdiction over all disputes concerning the interpretation or application of the Convention, subject to the provisions of article 297 and to the declarations made in accordance with article 298 of the Convention. The judge are derived from a wide variety of nations.
With many people worldwide now turning their eyes to an ocean in peril, the Law of the Sea convention turned into a global diplomatic effort to create a basis of laws and principles for all nations to follow concerning the sea and everything it held. The result: A 1982 oceanic constitution, called the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Between New York, USA and Geneva, Switzerland, ambassadors from 165+ countries sat down to trade and barter for their nations' rights.
The conference created the standard for a 12-mile territorial sea around a land and allowed it to gain universal acceptance. Within these limits, states are free to enforce any of their own laws or regulations or use any resources. Furthermore, each signatory coastal state is granted an Exclusive Economic Zone (or "EEZ"), in which that state has exclusive rights to fisheries, mineral rights and sea-floor deposits. The Convention allows for "innocent passage" through both territorial waters and the EEZ, meaning merchant ships do not have to avoid such waters, provided they do not do any harm to the country or break any of its laws. Military ships do NOT have the right to pass through another nation's EEZ unless permission is granted. This can cause difficulties for Russia, whose Baltic fleet and Black Sea fleet do not have unobstructed access to the great oceans. By contrast, the USA (which is not a signatory to UNCLOS) has free access to the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans, and to the Gulf of Mexico. Because the EEZ is so extensive, ITLOS may need to determine the ocean boundaries between states, as they did in 2012 between Bangladesh and Burma (Myanmar). As the Arctic Ocean becomes increasingly important for both navigation and resources, the USA may find it necessary to submit to UNCLOS to clarify the Alaska/Canada border.
The Law of the Sea should be distinguished from Maritime Law, which deals with topics such as law of carriage of goods by sea, salvage, collisions, marine insurance and so on. In maritime law disputes, normally at least one party is a private litigant, such an individual or a corporation.