The Role of Port States

Authored by: Rosemary Rayfuse

Routledge Handbook of Maritime Regulation and Enforcement

Print publication date:  September  2015
Online publication date:  August  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415704458
eBook ISBN: 9781315890241
Adobe ISBN: 9781134499472


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It is often said that a vessel is subject only to the jurisdiction of its flag state. Indeed, traditionally, exclusivity of flag state jurisdiction has been considered a fundamental principle of the law of the sea. However, historically the principle has always been tempered by the ascription of certain jurisdictional rights to other states. As now articulated in the Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC), 1 the exclusivity of flag state jurisdiction is tempered by the jurisdictional rights given to coastal states, which enjoy full sovereignty, including enforcement jurisdiction, in their internal waters and, subject to the right of innocent passage, within their territorial sea. 2 Beyond the territorial sea and within the contiguous zone, coastal states may exercise the control necessary to prevent infringements of their customs, fiscal immigration or sanitary laws by inbound vessels. Additionally, within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) coastal states enjoy sovereign rights over, and enforcement jurisdiction in respect of, the exploration and exploitation of the living and non-living natural resources of the EEZ. 3 Likewise, coastal states enjoy a measure of enforcement jurisdiction in respect of certain activities on the extended continental shelf. 4

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