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territorial waters


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The band of sea between the limit of the internal waters of a state (see baseline) and the high seas, over which the state has certain specified rights. These rights are governed by a 1958 Geneva Convention, which is taken to represent the position under customary international law. New rules were proposed in a 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (see law of the sea). A coastal state exercises sovereignty over its territorial waters, which includes, in particular, the following:(1) An exclusive right to fish and to exploit the resources of the seabed and subsoil of the seabed and exclusive use of the airspace above the territorial sea.(2) The exclusive right to use the territorial waters to transport people and goods from one part of the state to another.(3) The right to enact laws concerning navigation, immigration, customs dues, and health, which bind all foreign ships.(4) The right to ask a warship that ignores navigation regulations to leave the territorial waters.(5) Certain powers of arrest over merchant ships and people on board and jurisdiction to try crimes committed on board such ships within the territorial waters.(6) The right to exclude fighting in the territorial waters during a war in which the coastal state is neutral. All foreign ships, however, have a right of innocent passage through the territorial sea, i.e. the right to pass through, provided they do not prejudice the peace, security, or good order of the coastal state (submarines must navigate on the surface). See also hot pursuit, right of.The extent of the territorial sea is usually measured from the low-tide mark on the shore, but in estuaries and small bays it is measured from a closing line between two points on the shore, which delimits the state's internal waters. The width of the territorial sea is a matter of dispute in international law. Traditionally it has been fixed at 3 nautical miles (see cannon-shot rule), but many states have claimed 12 miles or more, and this will probably become the normal width. The Territorial Sea Act 1987 fixes the territorial waters of the UK at 12 nautical miles. Beyond the territorial sea, states have a contiguous zone, not exceeding 24 nautical miles, in which they may exercise jurisdiction over certain infringements of their customs, fiscal, immigration, or sanitary regulations. In recent years many states (including the UK) have also claimed exclusive fishery zones extending 200 miles beyond the low-tide mark. The UK is subject to the EU's Common Fisheries Policy in relation to fishing. See also exclusive economic zone.

(1) An exclusive right to fish and to exploit the resources of the seabed and subsoil of the seabed and exclusive use of the airspace above the territorial sea.

(2) The exclusive right to use the territorial waters to transport people and goods from one part of the state to another.

(3) The right to enact laws concerning navigation, immigration, customs dues, and health, which bind all foreign ships.

(4) The right to ask a warship that ignores navigation regulations to leave the territorial waters.

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Subjects: Law.


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