Jurisdictional issues for
navies involved in enforcing
multilateral regimes beyond
As we enter the new millennium, states are becoming party to a complex array of multilateral regimes which govern ocean areas beyond national jurisdiction. The traditional freedoms of the high seas, set out in Article 87 of the 1982 United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC), are now overlaid with a network of conventional international law provisions which seek to regulate a wide range of criminal activity, the taking of resources and environmental despoliation occurring on the high seas. Many of the high seas regimes negotiated since the adoption of the LOSC in December 1982 impose enforcement obligations on states parties but contain scant detail as to the practical mechanisms for enforcement. The high seas as an arena for maritime law enforcement presents new challenges for navies charged with implementing cooperative regimes. The development of uniform enforcement procedures and an equitable division of enforcement responsibility among regional navies or regional maritime security forces is essential if high seas regimes are to be implemented effectively.
In the order of national priorities, enforcement of legislation within a state's own offshore zones will naturally take precedence over regimes devised to regulate the high seas. For many states in the Asia-Pacific region, effective surveillance and enforcement regimes of their own vast exclusive economic zones (EEZs) are still nascent. Even states with sophisticated maritime patrol forces such as Australia have limited resources to provide comprehensive coastal surveillance, let alone contribute to high seas policing.