Various manifestations of state jurisdiction can be rendered from the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and international law broadly.

Three main types of jurisdiction for all states

Three main types of jurisdiction activities exist, combined with three categories of maritime states which can have jurisdiction.

  1. First there is Prescriptive Jurisdiction, or the power to make rules.
  2. Second, Enforcement Jurisdiction, or the power to apply rules, monitor compliance, conduct inspect ions, and make arrests.
  3. Third, there is Adjudicative Jurisdiction; t his is the power to undertake court proceedings after enforcement.

Where can the states execute / apply these jurisdiction??

These three types of jurisdiction apply to states and can fall into both Territorial and extra-territorial jurisdiction. Territory refers to the domain over which a state maintains power (generally physical/political borders).

Ok, What if a state want to act outside those limits for any reason?? Like if Indian flag state wants to control piracy in Indian ocean away from their territory ?

To act outside those limits and exercise extra-territorial jurisdiction, an actor needs justification, which is based on the following principles:

  • Active Personality / Nationality (i.e. flag state jurisdiction, wherever one is, subject to laws)
  • Universality (i.e. universal jurisdiction over piracy to protect the common good from dangers against all)
  • Treaty, whatever rationale

As the above-mentioned principles overlap, concurrent jurisdiction exists. For example, vessels have nationality of one state, fishing agreement of another state, crew from five states, subject to international treaties, etc.

Confusing! right?

Yes, In the maritime context, six or more states may have jurisdiction over private maritime activities at any given time;

  1. The flag state of the merchant ship
  2. The state where the shipping company is registered,
  3. The home state or states of the merchant crew
  4. The state where the charterer is registered
  5. The home states of the individual seafarers
  6. The coastal state whose waters they transit or ports they enter.

Thus oversight of private maritime operations becomes confusing as state jurisdiction is unclear or blurred, and occasionally the states involved may tiff to avoid responsibility and jurisdiction.


What was done to avoid this confusion???

The UNCLOS maritime zone system offers three types of maritime states to avoid confusion which is currently being followed successfully. Click on each to read further!!

  1. Coastal States
  2. Port States
  3. Flag States.

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