Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands

Legal provision for integrated coastal zone management

Part 2

Today the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982 provides the necessary legal foundation for further development of the legislative basis for coastal zone management. The most significant, practical provisions of this Convention for a system of integrated coastal zone management are the following:

Chapter 2.1
Concept of Maritime Law: principles, rules, norms and sources of Maritime Law

At present, Maritime Law includes both norms of national law, referring to various branches of law (civil, administrative, criminal, etc.), and norms of international public and international private law.

Therefore it has been agreed that modern Maritime Law should have three constituents:

  1. National law;

  2. International public law;

  3. International private law. 

National Maritime Law 

National Maritime Law includes norms from various branches of the law. This is due to the complexity of maritime operations and the need to cover the broad set of questions linked to activities at sea.

It is obvious, that national Maritime Law should be part of the legal system of states that have coastal zones under their jurisdiction.

In the Russian Federation this provision can be illustrated by the following example. A contract to ship cargo, rescue at sea, marine insurance, etc., are regulated by norms of civil law (in particular, by the Civil Code of the Russian Federation), the order of release for vessels to sail from ports of the Russian Federation is defined by norms of administrative law (Article 111, Administrative Code), and the responsibility of captains of Russian vessels to offer aid at a marine disaster is specified in the norms of criminal law (Article 270, Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).

Thus, national Maritime Law is made up of norms from various branches of national law, united by a common subject of legal regulation: the use of the sea in all its forms. 

International public Maritime Law 

International public Maritime Law is characterized by the quantity and complexity of regulations on the use of the World Ocean. It was not created as a whole, but developed gradually in response to prevailing conditions. There were two distinct stages in the history of its development.

The first Geneva Conference of the United Nations on the Law of the Sea in 1958 marked the beginning of the first phase. It resulted in four Conventions on: the territorial sea and the contiguous zone; the continental shelf; the high seas; fisheries and the protection of the living resources of the high seas.

The second United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea was held in 1960. Its aim was to establish a uniform width for territorial waters around the world. No agreement was reached.

The beginning of the second stage in development of Maritime Law was marked by the third United Nations Conference that was dedicated to the development and introduction into international practice of norms and rules on the use of the World Ocean resources and “rules of conduct” in the Ocean. The Conference lasted for an unusually long time - from 1973 to 1982 (the longest conference in the history of United Nations) and was very successful. It resulted in a comprehensive international legal act the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982. The convention of 1982 is unique in having a universal character. The Convention came into force on November 16, 1994. Initially 119 states were signatories to it. Russia ratified it on February 26, 1997 and there are now 126 parties to the convention including the EU.

What did this Convention contribute to the development of international Maritime Law?

  1. It acknowledged, supplemented and developed a number of provisions stipulated in the Geneva Convention of 1958. Thus it put into law rules and norms of Maritime Law that had already been verified in practice.

  2. It introduced new provisions so that the Convention now consists of 17 parts including 320 articles and 9 appendices.

  3. The 1982 Convention precisely defined, for the first time, the boundary of the territorial sea that can be claimed by coastal states. It is limited to 12 nautical miles.

  4. A compromise on the demands by some states for territorial rights up to 200 miles offshore was embodied in the concept of the exclusive economic zone.

  5. Laws to govern research and exploitation in areas of international seabed were established.

  6. The concept of archipelagic waters was introduced for the first time.

  7. In view of demands by coastal states for wider territorial seas the right of transit passage through international straits was defined.

The principle provisions of modern Maritime Law that constitute international public maritime law fall into three categories.

The first set of conventions regulate the legal regime of maritime areas. These are the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982, the Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone of 1958, the Convention on the High Seas of 1958, the Convention on the Continental Shelf of 1958, the International Convention on Protection of Underwater Telegraph Cables of 1884, etc. There are also agreements regulating straits, rivers and canals, including the Convention of the Suez Canal of 1888, respecting the free navigation of the Suez maritime Canal, the Convention on the Regime of the Straits of 1936, the Convention on the Regime of Navigation on the Danube of 1948, the Agreement on the Panama Canal of 1977 and a number of others.

The second set of regulations relate to the safety of navigation. The principle act in this area is the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea of 1974, with subsequent Amendments and Protocols, known as SOLAS (from “Safety Of Life at Sea”). Other regulations on navigation are: the International Convention on Cargo Mark of 1966, changed by the Protocol of 1988; the International Convention on Tonnage Measurement of Ships of 1969; the International Convention on the International Regulations for Prevention Collision at Sea of 1972 with subsequent Amendments; the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watching for Sea Farers of 1978, changed by the Conference of 1995; the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue of 1979, etc.

Other conventions are intended to protect the marine environment. The most significant is the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships of 1973, which was changed according to the Protocol of 1978 with subsequent Amendments (MARPOL 73/78). Other international agreements on marine environmental protection are the: International Convention Relating to Intervention on the High Seas in Cases of Oil Pollution Casualties of 1969; the Protocol on Intervention on the High Seas in Cases of Pollution Casualties by Substances Other Than Oil of 1973; the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage of 1992; the International Convention on the Creation of an International Fund for Compensation of Damage from Pollution by Petroleum of 1992; the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter of 1972. Part XII of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982 “Protection and Preservation of the Marine Environment” defines the modern international legal regime of marine environmental protection and may be considered as a constituent of international environmental law (Avramenko, 2001a, Section I).

Although the conventions and agreements listed above are the source of most international public Maritime Law, there are also significant contributions from regional conventions and bilateral agreements.  

Chapter 2.2
Maritime areas and the main provisions of their legal regime 

According to the current international legal classification of maritime areas, the World Ocean is divided into three legal categories:

  1. Maritime areas: being an integral part of a coastal state’s territory within the limits of its sovereignty (internal waters, territorial seas);

  2. Areas, which are not included in the coastal state territory, but are under its jurisdiction (exclusive economic zone, contiguous zone, continental shelf);

  3. Areas under neither sovereignty, nor jurisdiction of any state (high seas) (Avramenko, 2001a, Foreword).

It is clear that the legal regimes of these basic categories of maritime areas cannot be uniform. So, for example, in territorial waters, in contrast to internal waters, there is the right of innocent passage. No less significant differences occur in relation to the jurisdiction of a coastal state in the contiguous and exclusive economic zone in comparison with the continental shelf. The use of maritime resources in special areas such as international straits, canals, rivers, archipelagic waters and the waters of the Arctic and the Antarctic regions pose particularly complex legal problems.

Internal waters

Internal waters are defined as waters on the landward side of the baseline, which is used for measuring the width of territorial waters. According to Maritime Law the following are included in internal waters:

  1. Ports;

  2. Waters between a shore and straight baselines, used to measure the breadth of the territorial waters;

  3. Internal seas, i.e. the seas surrounded by the land territory of one or several states;

  4. Bays with entrances not more than 24 nautical miles wide;

  5. Historic waters, including historical bays irrespective of the width of the entrance.

Thus the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982 treats a bay as a well-marked indentation whose penetration is in such proportion to the width of its mouth as to contain land-locked waters and constitute more than a mere curvature of the coast. An indentation shall not, however, be regarded as a bay unless its area is as large as, or larger than, that of the semi-circle whose diameter is a line drawn across the mouth of that indentation. When the entrance to a bay exceeds 24 nautical miles, a straight baseline shall be drawn within the bay in such a manner as to enclose the maximum area of water that is possible with a line of that length.

The restriction above does not apply to so-called “historic” bays. Where the use of the coast and coastal resources is of particular significance. Three factors serve as the basis for including bays and other “historic” waters in internal waters:

  1. Sovereignty has been claimed by the coastal state for a long period of time;

  2. The bay is of important economic, defensive and strategic significance to the coastal state;

  3. The majority of states have implied recognition of the bay as internal water.

If certain specified factors are present it is accepted that a bay is not simply “historic”, but is under the jurisdiction of the corresponding state. Therefore countries, whose territory includes the coastal zone, have “historic” bays within their borders as a rule. Normally these bays are well known and consequently there is no necessity to mention their “historic” nature. The main ones are: in the Russian Federation Peter the Great Bay and Penzhin Bay in the Far East; in Europe the Bristol Channel, Moray Firth, Conception (Great Britain), Cancal (France); in North America Hudson Bay (Canada), Delaware Bay, Monterey Bay, Chesapeake Bay, Santa Monica Bay (USA).

Thus, if in general the legal regime of internal seawaters as parts of a state territory is determined mainly by the coastal state, it should be in agreement with regulations of international Maritime Law. 

Territorial seas 

Territorial seas are waters that form a belt around the land that is up to 12 nautical miles wide. They adjoin to internal seawaters, directly to the coast (where there are no internal waters) or to archipelagic waters depending on the circumstances. The breadth of the territorial sea is measured from baselines and being part of a state’s territory is under its sovereignty. Roadsteads that are normally used for loading, unloading and anchoring ships, and which would otherwise be situated wholly or partly outside the outer limit of the territorial sea, are included in the territorial sea (Article 12 of the Convention of 1982).

The right to passage in territorial seas is determined and defined in International Maritime Law as navigation through the territorial sea for the purpose of: traversing that sea without entering internal waters; proceeding to or from internal waters. According to the provisions of the Convention on Territorial Seas and the Contiguous Zone of 1958 (Article 14) the passage, taking place in conformity with articles of the Convention and with other rules of international law, is innocent so long as it is not prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of a coastal state. To avoid any confusion the notion of innocent passage was made explicit in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982.

At the beginning of the twenty first century 119 of the 151 coastal states worldwide had established 12-mile wide territorial seas. These states include the Russian Federation, the USA, China, India, France, Italy, Ukraine, Latvia and Lithuania. Some states have opted for territorial seas significantly less than 12 miles wide. Jordan and Singapore have limited it to 3 miles, Finland and Norway - to 4 miles, Greece and Turkey - to 6 miles. In signing the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea some states (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ghana, etc.) agreed to reduce their territorial seas to the 12 nautical miles agreed by the world community in 1982. Currently 130 states have limited their territorial seas to 12 miles in accordance with the Convention. 

Contiguous zone 

Contiguous zone waters constitute a belt of sea, adjoining to the territorial waters of a coastal state which, according to United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982, may not extend beyond 24 nautical miles from the baseline from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured. In the contiguous zone the coastal state has the right to some defined kinds of control.

The use and control of the contiguous zone is defined in the Geneva Convention of 1958 on Territorial Seas and the Contiguous Zone. Article 24 of this Convention says, that:

  1. In a zone of the high seas contiguous to its territorial sea, the coastal state may exercise the control necessary to:

    1. Prevent infringement of its customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary regulations within its territory or territorial sea;

    2. Punish infringement of the above regulations committed within its territory or territorial sea.

  2. The contiguous zone may not extend beyond twelve miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.

  3. Where the coasts of two states are opposite or adjacent to each other, neither of the two states is entitled, failing agreement between them to the contrary, to extend its contiguous zone beyond the median line every point of which is equidistant from the nearest points on the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial seas of the two states is measured.

The current Russian Federation Law “On Internal Seawaters, Territorial Seas and Contiguous Zone of the Russian Federation” (adopted in 1998) defines the contiguous zone of the Russian Federation as a belt of sea disposed outside and adjacent to the territorial sea, whose external border is 24 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured (Avramenko, 2001a, Section II).

Fifty-five states have now established a contiguous zone of 24 nautical miles and less. Only Syria has declared a contiguous zone of more than 24 nautical miles (41 nautical miles).

Various countries have declared various other zones: sanitary zones by Arab countries; fiscal and immigration zones by India; security zones by Burma, India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Vietnam. Zones of the criminal jurisdiction, neutrality, pollution prevention etc. have been established, often by states that have recently gained political independence.

High seas

International Maritime Law concerning the high seas has no direct relation to the coastal zone but knowledge of its basic provisions is necessary for complete understanding of the law governing the coastal zone.

The term “high seas” means all parts of the sea that are not included in the territorial sea or in the internal waters of a state. The high seas being open to all nations, no state may validly subject any part of them to its sovereignty.

Obviously, the legal regime of the high seas unlike other kinds of maritime areas is regulated only by norms of international law. Two of the sources of international law concerning the high seas are the Convention on the High Seas of 1958 and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982.

One of the most important and distinctive features of the high seas is that it is open, in full sense of this word to all states, both coastal and land-locked.

According to Convention on the High Seas of 1958 freedom of the high seas includes:

  1. Freedom of navigation;

  2. Freedom to fish;

  3. Freedom to lay submarine cables and pipelines;

  4. Freedom to fly over the high seas.

The convention of 1982 extended the concept of freedom of the high seas to include two additional items:

  1. Freedom to construct artificial islands and other installations permitted under international law;

  2. Freedom to do scientific research.

Thus freedom of the high seas is not absolute. States may exercise the freedoms specified above, provided that they take into account the interests of other countries. Modern international law maintains the principle of freedom of the high seas, and this is the foundation of the legislation that governs navigation at sea. All states, whether coastal or not, have the right to allow ships to sail under their flag. Ships can only sail under the flag of one state and are subject exclusively to that state’s jurisdiction while at sea. However, naval vessels and other ships and aircraft on government service have the right of interference on the high seas if international maritime law is being violated. In other waters law enforcement is in the hands of the sovereign state.

The Convention on the High Seas of 1958 defines cases and rules when such interference can take place:

  1. on the basis of an existing international treaty;

  2. if the ship is engaged in piracy;

  3. if the ship is engaged in the slave trade;

  4. if though flying a foreign flag or refusing to show its flag, the ship is, in reality, of the same nationality as the warship;

  5. in executing the right of hot pursuit.

In recent years an additional reason for interfering on the high seas appeared: pollution. In 1969 an International Convention Relating to Intervention on the High Seas in Cases of Oil Pollution Casualties was adopted. Thus international Environmental Law as well as international Maritime Law apply to the high seas. The Convention gave coastal states the right to interfere on the high seas to prevent, reduce or eliminate the threat of oil pollution by a foreign vessel due to an accident on the high seas. As oil is not the only marine pollutant a Protocol on Intervention on the High Seas in Cases of Pollution Casualties by Substances Other Than Oil was introduced in 1973.

Exclusive economic zone

The exclusive economic zone is an area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea. It is subject to the specific legal regime established by United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982. This means, that the regime of the exclusive economic zone cannot be established by the coastal state at its own discretion.

Specific features of the exclusive economic zone are:

  1. The exclusive economic zone is beyond the territory of any state and not under the sovereignty of any state. The rights of a neighboring coastal state in this zone are exceptionally limited in character;

  2. The exclusive economic zone is the result of a compromise between states interested in optimizing the use of their coastal resources. Special attention was given to the question of the exclusive economic zone during the preparation and course of the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea;

  3. Many states (particularly countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America have insisted on economic zones 200 nautical miles wide; increased from the normal 12 nautical miles). 200 nautical miles from the baseline from which the width of the territorial sea is measured is now the limit for the exclusive economic zone.

  4. The concept, rules of use and territorial limitations on the exclusive economic zone are fixed in United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982.

According to the provisions of this Convention a coastal state has the following rights within the limits of the exclusive economic zone:

  1. sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, of the waters superjacent to the seabed and of the seabed and its subsoil, and with regard to other activities for the economic exploitation and exploration of the zone, such as the production of energy from water, currents and winds;

  2. jurisdiction as provided for in the relevant provisions of this Convention with regard to:

  3. other rights and duties provided in the Convention.

While exercising these rights, the coastal state shall have due regard to rights of other states in their exclusive economic zone (Avramenko, 2001a, Section I).

Thus, the coastal state within the framework of the exclusive economic zone has:

first, not sovereignty, but sovereign rights, i.e. rights established for strictly defined purposes and in precisely limited amounts;

second, sovereign rights are established only for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing living or non-living natural resources, that, in particular, means the right of coastal states to exercise sovereignty on the use of all fish resources (including those attached to the seabed e.g., crustaceans etc.), mineral resources (oil, gas, etc.), and also energy produced from the water, currents and wind;

third, the specified rights have an exclusive character, no other state may engage in the activity, set out in the convention, in the exclusive economic zone of another state without that state’s permission.

fourth, the coastal state has exclusive jurisdiction over artificial islands, installations and structures.

The following rights are delegated to coastal states:

The coastal state can realize only those rights, and perform only those duties, which are stipulated in the Convention of 1982. In other words, no coastal state can exercise any rights, which are not provided for in the Convention (for example, to control navigation of foreign ships, customs or medical controls, etc.).

So although coastal states have sovereign rights and jurisdiction in their exclusive economic zone, other states have the right to navigate, over fly, lay submarine cables and pipelines, and other internationally lawful uses of the sea related to these freedoms, such as those associated with the operation of ships, aircraft and submarine cables and pipelines, and compatible with the other provisions of the 1982 Convention (Article 58, Item 1) (Avramenko, 2001a, Section I).

Satellite communication between foreign merchant ships and coastal services using the international organization of maritime satellite communications (INMARSAT) system is also a right within the exclusive economic zone.

At the beginning of the XXI century 96 states had established exclusive economic zones, and 25 states had also declared fishing zones of up to 200 nautical miles around their coasts.  

Chapter 2.3
International straits and canals

Straits are given special attention in international Maritime Law because they occupy such a significant part of the coastal zone.

They are the natural maritime passes connecting the high seas, or the seas and the oceans. Some straits due to their geographical position, scale and dynamics of use are used intensively for international navigation. In international Maritime Law they are called international straits.

Part III of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982, “Straits used for international navigation” optimizes the interests both of the countries using international straits, and the coastal states located along the straits. In particular, Article 34 of the Convention says, that the regime of passage through straits used for international navigation shall not in other respects affect the legal status of the waters forming such straits or the exercise by the states bordering the straits of their sovereignty or jurisdiction over such waters and their air space, bed and subsoil (International Maritime Law in Documents. Moscow, 2000, Section X, Part 3, p.431).

The definition of transit passage is given in Section 2, Part III, of the Convention: transit passage is the freedom of navigation or over flight of a strait solely for the purpose of continuous and expeditious transit of the strait.

The significance of the definition is evident in straits where territorial waters of more than one state overlap, as is the case in a significant number of major international straits. Free transit passage is essential to merchant shipping.

The 1982 Convention also provides for the interests of the states that border straits in terms of navigational safety, fishery, prevention of pollution, compliance with customs, fiscal, immigration and sanitary regulations. Vessels on transit passage should comply with generally accepted international regulations, procedures and practices for safety at sea, and with generally accepted international regulations, procedures and practices for prevention, reduction and control of pollution from ships.

Foreign vessels, while exercising the right of transit passage, should refrain from any activities leading to the violation of the principles of international law embodied in the Charter of the United Nations and to refrain from any activities, other than those incident to their normal modes of continuous and expeditious transit, unless rendered necessary by force majeure.

According to the Convention transit passage does not apply if there is a route through a strait that keeps to the high seas or the exclusive economic zone that is of similar convenience with respect to navigational and hydrographical characteristics.

States bordering straits may designate sea-lanes and prescribe traffic separation schemes within the straits to promote the safe passage of ships. The states should respect the following requirements:

  1. sea-lanes and traffic separation schemes shall conform to generally accepted international regulations;

  2. before designating or substituting sea lanes or prescribing or substituting traffic separation schemes, states bordering straits shall refer proposals to the competent international organization with a view to their adoption;

  3. states bordering straits shall clearly indicate all sea lanes and traffic separation schemes designated or prescribed by them on charts to which due publicity shall be given.

The 1982 Convention does not cover the Black Sea and the Baltic Straits these are regulated by special international conventions.

Black Sea Straits  

The Black Sea Straits is a major international shipping route that connects the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. The Straits consist of the Bosporus Strait (length 31 km, width 0.7 km - 3.7 km), the Marmara Sea (length 222 km, width 27 km – 74 km) and the Dardanelles Strait (length 70 km, width 1.3 km – 2 km). It is regulated by the Montreux Convention of 1936.  

Baltic Straits 

The Baltic Straits, or Danish Straits as it is sometimes called, consist of three straits - the Great Belt, the Little Belt and the Sound. It is the only waterway connecting the Baltic Sea with the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

The use of the Baltic Straits by merchant shipping has a long history. It is governed by the Copenhagen the Convention which came into force on March 14, 1857. Nowadays this document is recognized as the source of law. 

International canals 

Canals are accorded a special place in international maritime law because:

  1. canals are artificially created shipping ways;

  2. being artificial canals were dug at one time by someone and equipped for navigation;

  3. canals are at key nodes of international shipping lanes and neighboring countries sometimes see opportunities to increase their role in world politics through their control of the canal;

  4. canals connect the high seas and consequently are major waterways of international value and in this respect they differ significantly from other internal waters of a state, for example, national rivers;

  5. canals have an important and significant status defined by their geographical position, as all of them form an immediate connection between vast areas of the high seas. For example, the Panama Canal links the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, the Suez Canal - the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. The Kiel Canal connects the Baltic Sea with the North Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean;

  6. canals are of international important for navigation In this respect some canals are of greater importance than many international channels and straits.  

Suez canal

In terms of commercial navigation and traffic density the Suez Canal is the most important canal in the world.

Regulations for the Suez Canal were established in 1888 by the Convention of Constantinople. This was the first treaty in the history of international maritime law to grant free passage within a canal. Article 1 prohibits interference with vessels in the canal and so guarantees free passage in peacetime and war. Article 2 prohibits obstruction and interference with the security of the canal and its branches.

Kiel Canal

The entire length of the Kiel Canal (98.7 km) is within German territory. It is 102 meters wide at the surface, 42 meters wide at its bed and the depth of the fairway is 11.3 meters. The canal connects the North Sea to the Baltic Sea and saves a journey of 685 km through the Baltic Straits.

Navigation in the Canal is regulated by the Navigation Rules of the Kiel Canal, which gives freedom of passage to merchant vessels of all countries after payment of transit fees and receipt of a passage certificate. Vessels not fit to sail in the Canal may be refused passage.

Panama Canal

The Panama Canal connects the Gulf of Panama in the Pacific Ocean with the Gulf of Mosquitoes in the Caribbean Sea.

The Panama Canal started to function as a shipping line on August 15, 1914, but was not open to international shipping until 1920. It is now a neutral international waterway open to vessels of all countries on conditions of full equality and non-discrimination.

On December 31, 1999 the Panama Canal passed under the sovereignty of Panama according to the Torrijos-Carter Treaty of 1977. At this point the Canal became a government enterprise.

Chapter 2.4
Archipelagic waters and the continental shelf

Archipelagic waters

Archepelagic waters are the waters inside and around an archipelago. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982 (Article 46) treats “archipelago”as a group of islands, including parts of islands, interconnecting waters and other natural features which are so closely interrelated that such islands, waters and other natural features form an intrinsic geographical, economic and political entity, or which historically have been regarded as such (International Maritime Law in Documents, 2000, Section X).

The largest and the most well known archipelagic states are Indonesia, the Philippines and Fiji. On attaining sovereignty many island states have became more interested in how to profit from the waters surrounding them and have in recent decades claimed sovereignty over waters traditionally recognized as the high sea.

Changes in international Maritime Law can only be made through multilateral negotiations. The III Conference on the Law of the Sea examined this issue of archepelagis states and the resulting 1982 United Nations Convention contains a number of special provisions on the legal regulation of archipelagic waters.

The Convention stipulates the right of an archipelagic state to draw straight archipelagic baselines joining the outermost points of the outermost islands and drying reefs of the archipelago provided that these baselines include within them the main islands and an area in which the ratio of the area of the water to the area of the land, including atolls, is between 1 to 1 and 9 to 1. The length of such baselines shall not exceed 100 nautical miles, except that up to 3 per cent of the total number of baselines enclosing any archipelago may exceed that length, up to a maximum length of 125 nautical miles. Also these baselines shall not depart to any appreciable extent from the general configuration of the archipelago. The breadth of the territorial sea, the contiguous zone, the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf shall be measured from archipelagic baselines (Avramenko, 2001a, Section I).

As archipelagic waters, as a rule, were widely used for international navigation, by analogy to territorial waters the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982 reserves, that under the condition of respecting the regime of internal waters within the limits of archipelagic waters, ships of all states have the right of innocent passage through archipelagic waters.

Continental shelf  

Much of the research and exploitation of the World Ocean is centered on the continental shelf. The continental shelf is extremely rich in various resources, among which oil is of special significance for the world economy.

According to the Convention of 1958 adopted by the first Geneva Conference on the Law of the Sea, the continental shelf is the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas adjacent to the coast, but outside the area of the territorial sea, to a depth of 200 meters or, beyond that limit, to where the depth of the superjacent waters admits of the exploitation of the natural resources of the said areas, and the seabed and subsoil of similar submarine areas adjacent to the coasts of islands. Thus the Convention of 1958 establishes two criteria for the definition of the external border of the continental shelf:

The 1958 legal definition of the continental shelf favors some states and not others. The continental shelf adjacent to some states is wide, shallow and does not descend steeply. For such states (e.g. Argentina) the depth criterion is favorable in determining the extent of their shelf. Other states (e.g. Chile, Peru and Spain) have a very narrow shelf with deep water close to the shore. For these states the depth criterion is extremely unprofitable. The exploitability criterion is even more unfair as it favors technologically advanced states over those less able to exploit hard to reach natural resources

So during the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea a new and more precise definition of the continental shelf was negotiated. This definition is included in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and states that: the continental shelf comprises the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas that extend beyond its territorial sea throughout the natural prolongation of its land territory to the outer edge of the continental margin, or to a distance of 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured where the outer edge of the continental margin does not extend up to that distance. If the continental margin extends beyond 200 nautical miles from the shore, the outer limits of the continental shelf shall not exceed 350 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured or shall not exceed 100 nautical miles from the 2500 meters isobath.

The 1982 Convention retained, practically unchanged, the 1958 Convention’s provisions on exploration and exploitation of the continental shelf by the sovereign state (Avramenko, 2001a, Section I).

However, the concept of the continental shelf exists not only in the legal meaning. In geographical science, for example, the continental shelf is defined as a “rather narrow band of the seabed framing a continental massif which external margin quickly steps towards the ocean deeps” (A Glossary of Geographical Terms, 1975, p.229).

From the geologic-morphological point of view the continental shelf is the flat part of a continent extending under seawater up to the place where it sharply transforms into the continental slope.

Thus, the legal concept of the continental shelf is wider than geographical and geologic-morphological ones, as it includes besides the shelf itself, coastal areas of the seabed where the continental shelf is absent in the direct sense, and also areas of the seabed beyond the limits of the continental shelf. Also, from the geographical point of view the shelf begins at the coast; from the legal point it begins at the outer boundary of the territorial sea, as the territorial sea, the seabed and subsoil within the territorial waters form part of the territory of the coastal state. The continental shelf outside territorial waters is not part of state territory, but coastal states enjoy certain rights within the continental shelf beyond their territorial waters.

Russia occupies the one-seventh of the world’s landmass and has the most extensive coastal zone in the world. As such it has always shown a considerable interest in the question of the continental shelf. The Russian Federation is subject to international law so in accordance with international agreements and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea the Law “On the Continental Shelf of the Russian Federation” was adopted in 1995.

According to this Law the continental shelf of the Russian Federation includes the seabed and subsoil of the underwater areas outside the territorial seas of the Russian Federation to the extent of the natural continuation of its land territory up to the outer boundary of underwater continental margin. This definition of the continental shelf also applies to all islands of the Russian Federation.

The outer boundary of the continental shelf of the Russian Federation is defined as 200 nautical miles from baselines, i.e. the lines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured, provided that the outer boundary of the underwater continental margin does not extend beyond 200 nautical miles. If the underwater continental margin extends beyond 200 nautical miles from the specified baselines, the outer boundary of the continental shelf is said to coincide with the outer boundary of the underwater continental margin defined according to norms of international law.

This Law on the continental shelf the Russian Federation establishes the following rights:

The Law reserves, that Russia’s rights on the continental shelf do not touch upon the legal status of its waters or the airspace above these waters.

The Law also provides, that artificial islands, installations and structures cannot have the status of islands and have no territorial sea, exclusive economic area or continental shelf. Safety zones shall be established not exceeding a distance of 500 meters around artificial islands, installations and structures, measured from each point of their outer edge (International Maritime Law in Documents, 2000, Section X, pp.520-522).

Delimitation of the continental shelf between the Russian Federation and neighboring states is based on international treaties of the Russian Federation or norms of international law.

The outer boundaries of the continental shelf and lists of geographical coordinates with basic geodetic data and delimitation lines determined by Government of the Russian Federation are indicated on charts of appropriate scale and should be published in the “Notice for Navigators”.

Chapter 2.5
The Arctic

The polar or high-latitude regions occupy a special place in international Maritime Law. The two regions involved are the Arctic and the Antarctic; and it is the Arctic that is of interest to Russia.

The Arctic is the northern polar region of the globe. It is made up of the Arctic Ocean, parts of the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean, and the edges of Eurasia and North America within the polar circle (66°33¢N). Eight countries have territory in the Arctic: Russia, the USA (Alaska), Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Iceland, Sweden and Finland. These subarctic countries have contributed most to research and development in the region (Avramenko, 2001a, Section I) being unique in many respects: geopolitical, ecological, economic and military-political.

The Arctic is of global importance because it has a significant effect on the climate and weather of the northern hemisphere. More locally, its natural resources (including large, recently opened oil and gas fields) make it of economic importance. Its position means that it is both strategically important and a useful waterway and air route connecting the east and west. These factors explain the attention that is currently being paid to the legislation that governs the region.

Historically subarctic countries have claimed special interests in the Arctic. This was codified in international legal doctrine as the “sectoral theory”, which gave a subarctic state special rights in the polar “triangle” bounded by the state’s coast and the meridian lines to the North Pole. Canada was particularly active in defending this division of the Arctic. In a number of national legislative acts (for example, the Law on the Northern Territories of 1925), and in official declarations Canada defended its sovereignty to land, islands and even maritime areas to the north of the Canadian coast.

Maritime regions of the Arctic, including those permanently covered with ice, are governed by legal regimes based on the norms of international Maritime Law. So internal waters, territorial seas, exclusive economic zones, continental shelves and high seas are defined in the same way as in the rest of the world.

Northern Seaway lanes lie partially in the high seas and partly in Russian waters. This means that the Seaway is categorized as a national communication lane and that Russia, as the coastal state, has exclusive rights and duties. Legislation governing the use of the Seaway by foreign vessels is based on Russian Federation laws that govern access and navigation in internal waters, territorial seas and the exclusive economic zone.

At present, the Northern Seaway is regulated by Rules of Navigation on the Northern Seaway Lines, which came into force on July 1, 1991. The Rules allow vessels of any nationality access to the Seaway on a non-discriminatory basis. The Seaway is regulated by the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation through the Administration of the Northern Seaway and is operated by Russian navigation services that draw staff from Murmansk and Far East maritime shipping companies.

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