Freedom of the Seas - Law of the sea treaty: definitions



"Innocent passage" means the right of warships, merchant ships, and fishing vessels to pass without warning the territorial waters of a state in a manner that is not—in the words of the Law of the Sea Treaty (part II, article 19/2)—"prejudicial to the peace, good order, or security of the coastal State." Beginning in the 1970s the United States vigorously resisted efforts to require warships, nuclear-powered vessels, or vessels carrying environmental hazards to give notification prior to passing through the territorial waters of a sovereign state.

"Right of transit passage" refers to the principle articulated in the Law of the Sea Treaty (part III, article 38) guaranteeing all vessels and aircraft the right to pass through or over straits less than twenty-four miles wide at their narrowest point, that is to say, straits in which the twelve-mile territorial sea claim may have territorialized waters that formerly were international. Such straits include Gibraltar, Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, and Malacca in the South Pacific.

"Archipelagic sea-lanes passage" applies the principle of right of transit passage to archipelagoes, most importantly Indonesia and the Philippines. It guarantees unmolested passage for ships and aircraft through and over archipelagic waters, defined as the area encompassed by the drawing of baselines around the outermost islands of an archipelago. Archipelagic sea-lane passage is guaranteed in part IV of the Law of the Sea Treaty.



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