Territorial sea

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Zones under the law of the sea according to the Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). (The baseline forms the coastline at low tide, the figure shows the level at high tide.)

As territorial sea after Convention a to the (UNCLOS) land area of a coast state of adjacent sea strip referred to in the full state of the coast sovereign exerts ( territorial waters , territorial waters ). There is also international law of the sea . The seaward limit of the territorial sea also corresponds to the maritime customs limit .

Demarcation and history

Each state may determine the breadth of the territorial sea up to a limit of 12  nautical miles from the baseline . According to Article 12 of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, there is a special feature for anchorages : According to this, "anchorages that are usually used for loading, unloading and anchoring ships may be included in the territorial sea if they were wholly or partly outside the seaward boundary of the territorial sea".

Three mile zone

The question of the freedom of the seas was controversial at the beginning of modern times . The Dutchman Hugo Grotius spoke out in favor of the freedom of the seas in 1609, while the Englishman John Selden advocated the thesis that the seas can be divided into spheres of interest from which third parties could be excluded. Cornelis van Bynkershoek finally took a mediating point of view, oriented more towards practical enforceability than a theoretical discussion , with which he was able to assert himself: The validity of the law can only be enforced if the state also has the opportunity to take action against lawbreakers within the territorial waters . Originally, the breadth of the territorial waters was based on the controllability with cannon fire from the land (after the consideration potestatem terrae finiri, ubi finitur armorum vis , translated as: Territorial sovereignty ends where the power of weapons ends ). So they agreed on the approximate range of a cannon shot with a uniform three nautical miles (3 nm × 1.852 km / nm = 5.556 km). This is how the three mile zone came into being . The rest of the world's oceans were considered international waters .

Six mile zone

The six-mile zone (a good 11 km), for example, was declared by Greece and Turkey (see Greek-Turkish disputes in the Aegean ).

Twelve mile zone

In 1921 the Soviet Union claimed an extension of the three-mile zone to 12 nm (about 22 km). It was later followed by other countries, for example Iceland and Denmark (for the Faroe Islands ) since 1958 for the fishing limit. At the first two UN conferences on the law of the sea in Geneva (1958 and 1960) no agreement was reached on this. The agreement on the territorial sea and the connecting zone, concluded on April 29, 1958, regulated the matter without specifying a width, but limited the connecting zone to a maximum of 12 nm from the baseline. The UN  Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of December 10, 1982 brought a regulation under international law ; here it is stipulated that coastal states have the right to extend their territorial waters to up to 12 nm. It should be noted in this context that z. B. the USA has not yet signed UNCLOS.

Legal status

The territorial sea is part of the territory of the coastal state (Art. 2 and 3 UNCLOS ). The coastal state has sovereign sovereign rights in the territorial sea, that is, the national law of the respective coastal state applies here; in particular in the area of ​​hazard prevention ( shipping police ), environmental law and criminal prosecution. These can be asserted and enforced against ships of all flags - with the exception of warships. According to UNCLOS, restrictions in the sovereign rights of the coastal state exist in the following points:

  • the sovereignty of the coastal state must be exercised in accordance with obligations under international law
  • Right of peaceful passage (UNCLOS Art. 17)

Situation in Germany

The Federal Republic of Germany has with proclamation of 11 November 1994, the breadth of the territorial sea in the North Sea set sm on 12th In the Baltic Sea , the definition of a 12 nm wide territorial sea for the neighboring states is not possible for topographical reasons; Here, the seaward boundary of the territorial sea is determined by geographical coordinates, some of which are significantly less than 12 nm away from the coastline or the baseline.

On the basis of Art. 12 UNCLOS the deep-water roadstead in the German Bight 30 kilometers west of Heligoland was declared part of the coastal sea.

See also



  • European Parliament, Directorate-General for Internal Policies of the Union; Juan Luis Suárez de Vivero: Territorial waters in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Study, IPOL-PECH ET (2009) 431602, Brussels 2009 ( web link to downloads , europarl.europa.eu).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. 4. Individual elements of the state ( Memento from January 21, 2017 in the Internet Archive )
  2. ^ Christian Fahl: Law for non-lawyers. Seven fun lessons . CH Beck, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-406-59990-3 , p. 222 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  3. Swiss Federal Council : Message on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea of ​​December 10, 1982 and the Convention of July 28, 1994 for the implementation of Part XI of the Convention on the Law of the Sea of May 14, 2008, p. 4078.
  4. a b Proclamation of the Federal Government on the expansion of the German territorial sea of November 11, 1994, Federal Law Gazette 1994 I, p. 3428;
    Announcement of the proclamation of the federal government on the expansion of the German territorial sea of November 11, 1994 .
  5. 12-mile zone in the North and Baltic Seas