Duties of Flag States

Maintain a register of ships.

Effectively exercise jurisdiction over its vessels to ensure: Safety at sea with respect to construction, equipment and seaworthiness.

Manning and compliance of STCW and ILO conventions Pollution prevention Surveyed regularly by qualified surveyors Master and crew are qualified and conversant with international regulations on pollution, safety at sea, collision RegulationsVessels carry certificates with respect to the above viz safety, pollution, sea-worthiness etc.

Conduct proper enquiry on every marine casualty or incident of navigation at sea, causing loss of life or serious damage to installations or vessels or marine environment of other nations.

Must promptly inform concerned State and competent international organisations result of such enquiry. Penalties for the above offences must be adequate in severity to discourage such offences/violations.

High Sea

All parts of the sea which are not included in EEZ, Territorial sea, Archipelagic waters are High seas. All flag state vessels have the freedom of Navigation Fishing Scientific research Laying of submarine cables and pipelines, building artificial islands.

The jurisdiction in High Seas

The flag state alone exercises its jurisdiction over its vessels in the High Seas. Right of visit by Warship – Warships have the right to visit over merchant vessels in the high seas if they have reason to believe the merchant vessel:-

  • Engaged in piracy
  • Slave trade
  • Unauthorized broadcasting
  • Does not have a flag state.
  • Refuses to show their flag.
  • carrying narcotics
  • caused pollution in the high seas and such pollution is likely to spread to coastal waters and cause damage to its environment, the coastal State affected (under the intervention convention) can (after due consultation with the Flag State of the vessel) take measures to prevent such an event.

In case of collision in High seas, the disciplinary proceeding can be initiated only by the flag State.

  • The State of the person involved
  • No arrest or detention even as a matter of investigation by any another state other than the Flag State.
  • Competency certificate can be withdrawn/endorsed only by the State which issued it.
  • While in the High seas vessels are duty bound to render assistance to vessels and persons in distress.

International straits

Over 100 straits including Dover strait become territorial sea as a consequence of extending the limit of the territorial sea to 12 miles.

In these straits, foreign flag vessels have the “ right of transit passage”.Transit passage means the exercise of freedom of navigation solely for the purpose of expeditious transit of the strait between one part high sea or EEZ to another part of high sea/EEZ.

During transit, passage vessels must: proceed without delay refrain from the use of force or threat against coastal state comply with regulations on pollution, navigation, collision, etc

The difference between innocent passage and transit passage is that transit passage shall not be impeded shall not be suspended.

Note: if there is a strait between the mainland and its island and
also, there is also a high sea/EEZ route seaward of that island then vessels passing through that strait will be under innocent passage regime and not transit passage.

Internal water

From shore to the base line which is the low water line-or outer most
harbor construction or straight baselines connecting outer most islands in the case of archipelagos.

If vessel enters voluntarily within the jurisdiction of the coastal state. Foreign flag vessels have the right of innocent passage in internal waters only when:

1. Baselines, which have been redrawn, now enclose waters
previously seaward of the base line and were territorial sea Force majeure- distress War ships immune if entered with consent Merchant vessels in internal waters port state has civil as well as criminal jurisdiction.

Port state may, however, have a tendency not to exercise jurisdiction
unless: offence affects peace custom, immigration offence port state citizen involved breach of pollution, navigation, pilotage rules master of vessel request.