Maritime law

the maritime law is one of the oldest regulation subjects of international law. It does not extend to inland waters, rivers or lakes inland.

Table of contents


The modern maritime law is based on the thought of the free sea (mare liberum), represented for the first time by Hugo Grotius 1609, entrance for all offers. Opposite it the 1635 stood by John Selden developed doctrine mare clausum, so the sea in spheres of interests of different states under exclusion by third states was divided. This opinion could not become generally accepted however. A mediating position took 1703 Cornelis van Bynkershoek . It assumed in the principle property at the sea can exist so far, as the power of the state is enough. As border it regarded the range of the cannons . The cannon range at that time corresponds the 3-Meilenzone.

The sea plays for a long time an important role as route of transportation for merchandise. Also today still, despite aviation and railways, it is for many goods the only lucrative route of transportation. Beyond that serve the long time as inexhaustibly valid fish existence in many states for the Nahrungsmittelversorgung and form an important restaurant factor. The overfishing of the seas led living states in many traditionally from fishing to economic problems.
Due to new technical possibilities wins the sea in addition as stocks of raw materials at meaning. In the bottom of the sea store substantial quantities of oil, gases and minerals, whose production is possible nowadays. In addition modern ships and submarines make a substantially better military use of the high sea possible.
Starting from center 20. Century made therefore by the coastal states strengthens requirements for sovereignty over sea resources valid. In addition far fishing catch fleets, as well as the rising danger of the sea contamination came from native waters remove.
All this led to the fact that in the 70's of the last century since that the 17. Century valid expansion of the territorial waters was expanded by 3 nautical miles (the range of a cannon ball) on 12 nautical miles. Partly even up to 200 nautical miles valid were made; a demand, which is denied however steadily.
The concern grew that the principle mare liberum would be displaced. Since 1949 were advised within the United Nations over the maritime law. Several contracts became individual topics, like e.g. the prohibition of the stationing of nuclear weapons on the bottom of the sea closed. 1973 were called up the third UN-conference on maritime law, which finally ended to 1982 with the conclusion maritime law conventions.
After its entry into force 1994 it is in most states (also in the Federal Republic of Germany, not however in the USA) valid right.

sea-legal regulations

sea-legal zones after the maritime law convention

the modern maritime law particularly by the maritime law convention (SRÜ) of the United Nations one determines.
Important contents of the SRÜ are the regulation of the sovereignty powers of the coastal states. On the basis of the coastal line the SRÜ different commits itself, partly overlapping zones for the practice of the jurisdiction . Control of the coastal state decreases with the distance of the coast. Disputes result frequently in the case of straits, if the requirements on that overlay area which can be used.

coastal sea, territorial waters (up to 12 sm)

the coastal sea or territorial waters is the area, which extends to maximally twelve nautical miles of the base line ( the low water line, in addition, straight base lines are possible usually). All sovereignty powers are to the state at the disposal in its coastal sea.

The twelve-nautical mile zone was defined in the UN maritime law convention of 1982 in article 3. In most states the twelve-nautical mile zone replaces in former times usual three-mile zone.

connection zone (up to 24 sm)

in this zone, which may amount to maximally 24 nautical miles, bordering on the coastal sea, can exercise the state necessary control to punish in order to prevent offences against its tariff, health, and entry regulations, or offences, which were already committed in its territory or coastal sea.

exclusive economic zone (AWZ, up to 200 sm)

in the exclusive economic zone (AWZ) can the state up to an expansion of 200 nautical miles exclusively over natural resources, thus sea inhabitants and Bodenschätze, orders and economic uses to control. Beyond that however no rights, which result from the sovereignty of the state, exist. Sovereign powers can be exercised therefore only in the small measure. The most frequent sea-legal disputes refer to the use of the economic zone.

continental shelf (at least 200 sm)

the legal continental shelf is not congruent necessarily with the geological continental shelf. It extends at least to 200 sm from the base line. According to a complicated formula specified in the maritime law convention its border up to 350 can sm, in individual cases still in addition (100 sm of the 2500 m depth of water line) to be distant from the base line. Beyond the continental shelf the international bottom of the sea lies. The dismantling of resources of the bottom of the sea is alone the state reserved. The continental shelf does not change the status of waters lying over it.

the international bottom of the sea (the “area”)

the bottom of the sea and the sea underground beyond the borders of the range of national sovereignty powers calls the maritime law convention “the area”. “The area” and its resources are “common inheritance of mankind” (Common Heritage OF one child). They are subject to the administration by the international bottom of the sea authority.


with the maritime law convention was created for the maritime law recently its own jurisdiction, which consists of the international Marine Court of Law (seat: Hamburg).

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division for Ocean Affairs and the Law OF the Sea, Office OF legally Affairs, United nation

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