What is FREEDOM OF THE SEAS? What does FREEDOM OF THE SEAS mean? FREEDOM OF THE SEAS meaning - FREEDOM OF THE SEAS definition - FREEDOM OF THE SEAS explanation.
Source: Wikipedia.org article, adapted under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ license.
Freedom of the seas (Latin: mare liberum, lit. "free sea") 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.
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.
In 1609, Dutch jurist and philosopy Hugo Grotius wrote what is considered the foundation of the international legal doctrine regarding the seas and oceans – Mare Liberum, a Latin title that translates to "freedom of the seas". While it is generally assumed that Grotius first propounded the principle of freedom of the seas, countries in the Indian Ocean and other Asian seas accepted the right of unobstructed navigation long before Grotius wrote his De Jure Praedae (On the Law of Spoils) in the year of 1604. Previously, in the 16th century, Spanish theologian Francisco de Vitoria postulated the idea of freedom of the seas in a more rudimentary fashion under the principles of jus gentium.
During World War II, nations started to expand and claim many resources and water territories all over their surrounding coasts. There were four international treaties meticulously drafted in the late 1950s and onto the 1970s, but the issues were not resolved between nations until 1982 when the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was introduced.
UNCLOS is a Law of the Sea treaty: an agreement of rights and responsibilities of nations and their use of the world’s ocean with guidelines of trade, environment, and the management of marine and open seas resources. UNCLOS replaced the four international treaties drafted in the late 50’s through 70's. As of 2013, 165 countries and the European Union have joined the Convention.
According to International law, Article 92 of the convention which describes ships shall sail under the flag of one state only and, save in exceptional cases expressly provided for in international treaties or in this Convention, shall be subject to its exclusive jurisdiction on the high seas; however, when a ship is involved in certain criminal acts, such as piracy, any nation can exercise jurisdiction under the doctrine of universal jurisdiction. High seas were defined as any part of the sea that was not either territorial sea or internal waters, territorial waters and exclusive economic zones. Article 88 of the 1982 Convention states that the high seas shall be reserved for peaceful purpose. Many countries engage in military maneuvers and the testing of conventional weapons and nuclear weapons on the high seas. In order to deliver the right punishment to the right person or state, the ships need to be registered to a country to show proof of ownership. The owner of the vessel sometimes prefers to pay the lower registration fees by picking countries such as Panama, Bermuda, Italy, Malta and the Netherlands. According to Cruise Lines International Association, 90% of commercial vessels calling on U.S. ports fly foreign flags. To avoid the high cost with more rules and regulations, ships and tankers sometime prefer lower cost registration with a lower standard of inspection and regulation by picking a country that exercises less control over their registered ships, though many ships are owned by individuals or companies in another country (most commonly Japan and Greece) under a system called 'flag of convenience'. Registering a ship in Panama means that the ship is governed by the maritime rules of Panama rather than the ship owner's country.