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Encyclopedia > Coastal waters
Sea areas in international rights
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Sea areas in international rights
Map of Sealand and the United Kingdom, with territorial water claims of 3nm and 12nm shown.
Map of Sealand and the United Kingdom, with territorial water claims of 3nm and 12nm shown.

Territorial waters, or a territorial sea, is a belt of coastal waters extending twelve nautical miles from the shore of a littoral state that is regarded as the sovereign territory of the state, except that foreign ships (both military and civilian) are allowed innocent passage through it. Image File history File links Zonmar-en. ... Image File history File links Zonmar-en. ... Download high resolution version (1024x1046, 49 KB) Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... Download high resolution version (1024x1046, 49 KB) Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... For other meanings, see Sealand (disambiguation). ... A nautical mile is a unit of length. ... Shore A shore or shoreline is the land at the edge of a large body of water, such as an ocean, sea, or lake. ... A littoral is the region near the shoreline of a body of fresh or salt water. ...


A sovereign state has complete jurisdiction over internal waters, where not even innocent passage is allowed. Territorial waters extend out 12 nautical miles (22 km) from the mean low water mark adjacent to land, or from internal waters, per the 1994 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The mean low water mark may be an unlimited distance from permanently exposed land provided that some portion of elevations exposed at low tide but covered at high tide (like mud flats) is within 12 nautical miles of permanently exposed land. Completely enclosed seas, lakes, and rivers are considered internal waters, as are waters landward of lines connecting fringing islands along a coast or landward of lines across the mouths of rivers that flow into the sea. Bays are defined as indentations between headlands having an area greater than that of a semicircle. If they do not exceed 24 nautical miles (44 km) between headlands then they are internal waters; if their entrance is wider, then that portion landward of a 24 nautical mile straight line that touches opposite low-water marks across the bay positioned to contain the greatest water area are internal waters. All archipelagic waters within the outermost islands of an archipelagic state like Indonesia or the Philippines are also considered internal waters. This article discusses states as sovereign political entities. ... In law, jurisdiction from the Latin jus, juris meaning law and dicere meaning to speak, is the practical authority granted to a formally constituted body or to a person to deal with and make pronouncements on legal matters and, by implication, to administer justice within a defined area of responsibility. ... 1994 (MCMXCIV) was a common year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar, and was designated the International year of the Family. ... United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea Opened for signature December 10, 1982 in Montego Bay (Jamaica) Entered into force November 16, 1994[1] Conditions for entry into force 60 ratifications Parties 149[2] For maritime law in general see Admiralty law. ... The bay at San Sebastián, Spain A headland is an area of land adjacent to water on three sides. ...


Control over a contiguous zone an additional 12 nautical miles beyond its 12 nautical mile territorial sea (totaling 24 miles from shore) is permitted by a coastal nation to "prevent infringement of its customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws and regulations", which the United States invoked on 24 September 1999 [1]. Thus a coastal nation has total control over its internal waters, slightly less control over territorial waters, ostensibly even less control over waters within the contiguous zone, and supposedly no control whatsoever over an ocean beyond them (although it also has some rights concerning resources within its exclusive economic zone). September 24 is the 267th day of the year (268th in leap years). ... 1999 (MCMXCIX) was a common year starting on Friday, and was designated the International Year of Older Persons by the United Nations. ... In international maritime law, an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is a seazone over which a state has special rights over the exploration and use of marine resources. ...


Territorial waters claimed by one state are often disputed by another state. Territorial waters have often been subject to arbitrary extension in order to encompass activities such as offshore oil exploration, fishing rights (see Cod War) and to prevent pirate radio broadcasting from artificial marine fixtures and anchored ships. Oil Exploration is the search by petroleum geologists for hydrocarbon deposits beneath the Earths surface. ... A cod fishing boat The Cod Wars (also called the Iceland Cod Wars) were a series of confrontations between the United Kingdom and Iceland over Icelands claims of authority over tracts of ocean off their coastline as being their exclusive fishery zone. ... The term pirate radio lacks a specific universal interpretation. ...


From the eighteenth century until the mid twentieth century, the territorial waters of the British Empire, the United States, France and many other nations were three nautical miles (6 km) wide. Originally, this was the length of a cannon shot, hence the portion of an ocean that a sovereign state could defend from shore. However, Iceland claimed two nautical miles (4 km), Norway claimed four nautical miles (7 km), and Spain claimed six nautical miles (11 km) during this period. During incidents such as nuclear weapons testing and fisheries disputes some nations arbitrairly extended their maritime claims to as much as fifty or even two hundred nautical miles! Since the late 20th century the "12 mile limit" has become almost universally accepted. Britain extended her territorial waters from three to twelve nautical miles in 1987. (17th century - 18th century - 19th century - more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 18th century refers to the century that lasted from 1701 through 1800. ... (19th century - 20th century - 21st century - more centuries) Decades: 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s The 20th century lasted from 1901 to 2000 in the Gregorian calendar (often from (1900 to 1999 in common usage). ... The British Empire in 1897, marked in pink, the traditional colour for Imperial British dominions on maps. ... A small Civil War-era cannon on a carriage A cannon is any large tubular firearm designed to fire a heavy projectile over a considerable distance. ...


Throughout this page, the numbers of nautical miles are exact legal definitions, whereas the numbers of kilometres are only rough approximations which do not appear in any law or treaty.


See also

The terms international waters or transboundary waters apply where any of the following types of bodies of water (or their drainage basins) transcend international boundaries: oceans, large marine ecosystems, enclosed or semi-enclosed regional seas and estuaries, rivers, lakes, groundwater systems (aquifers), and wetlands [1]. Oceans and seas, waters outside... In international maritime law, an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is a seazone over which a state has special rights over the exploration and use of marine resources. ... For other meanings, see Sealand (disambiguation). ...

External link

  • UN Convention on the Law of the Sea

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