Law of the Sea

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Rocks in the Law of the Sea: Some comments on the South China Sea Arbitration Award

Article 121(2) of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (the Convention) stipulates that “the territorial sea, the contiguous zone, the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf of an island are determined in accordance with the provisions of this Convention applicable to other land territory.” According to the International Court of Justice, this rule has the status of customary law (Territorial and Maritime Dispute (Nicaragua v. Colombia), p.674, §139) and gives islands major importance in determining maritime spaces. It does however have an exception. According to paragraph 3 of the same article, “[r]ocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no exclusive economic zone or continental shelf.” These rocks generate rights only to a territorial sea and a contiguous zone. This text of critical importance has been widely commented (see Kolb, Karagiannis, Dipla, Boré Eveno, and various contributions in Forteau and Thouvenin) and was interpreted for the first time in the South China Sea Arbitration award of…

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Amicus Curiae Brief re MH17; Human Rights Committee on Search and Rescue at Sea

Recent weeks have been something of an extraterritoriality extravaganza. So let’s continue with that theme, hopefully not ad nauseam. First, readers might be interested in the amicus curiae brief that my colleague Sangeeta Shah and I co-authored and which we submitted this week to the European Court of Human Rights in…

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Persons at Sea, International Law and Covid-19

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to affect people around the world, the scholarly debate on how to uphold the rule of law amid the crisis remains relevant. A significant aspect of this debate has focused on the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on human rights (see, for example, here, here and here). However, it is not…

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The Nave Andromeda and the seven stowaways

On 25 October 2020, an incident involving seven stowaways occurred on the Nave Andromeda (IMO: 9580405), a crude oil tanker flying the flag of Liberia. The vessel was on its way from Lagos, Nigeria (having left the port of Lagos on 6 October 2020) to Southampton, United Kingdom (UK). This blog post describes the incident in more…

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Reflections on the Maersk Etienne Standoff and its Ramifications for the Duty to Render Assistance at Sea

The duty to render assistance at sea is a long-established rule of international law. The genesis of this obligation lies in the overwhelming need to protect life at sea. In recent years, the duty has had to respond to challenges posed by the phenomenon of irregular mass migration by sea. The sheer magnitude of the problem has placed…

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