These practices resulted in heavy losses to those
engaged in international maritime trade and navigation. Therefore, a number
of laws were enacted by various nations, stipulating severe punishment
for those persons engaged in deliberately causing shipwrecks and groundings.
The treaties between Kiev, Russia, and Byzantium (911, 944, 971), governed
the maritime trade and recommended providing mutual assistance on the sea.
Shipwreck caused by setting out a false beacon on a shoreline
In the 10th to the beginning of the 11th century, the city - state of Amalfi (on the Sorrento peninsula) had a code of maritime law, which served as the model for laws on the Mediterranean Sea. Other known maritime laws are, the "Jerusalem Assesses" (collection of statutes of feudal rights composed in the 12th -13th centuries in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the "Oleron Scrolls" (maritime rules disseminated in ports of France, Spain, England and others in the 12th -17th centuries), the "Consolato del Mare" (code of the laws and customs used by Mediterranean-region countries in the 13th - 14th centuries), the "Black Book of the Admiralty" (maritime laws of England in the 14th -15th centuries), the "Visby Laws" (marine laws of the island of Gotland), the "Hanseatic Code" (laws of the trade union of north German cities governing the relations in the field of commerce and navigation between countries of the Baltic and North Seas in the 17th century), etc.
As soon as separate countries achieved significant superiority in ocean trade, they attempted to present special claims to regions in which they conducted trade. England declared special claims to sea routes in the North Sea, Sweden and Denmark and into the Baltic Sea. The claims of Mediterranean countries actually kept this maritime region from free navigation until the end of the 16th century.
During the epoch of great geographical discoveries, along with the advancements in development of a maritime fleet, there was a tendency to control the riches obtained from overseas territories. This process encouraged not only the development of sea routes, but also piracy, slave-trade and outright aggression.. "Might makes Right" gained increasing influence, which was reflected in the maritime law of the day. As maritime nations acquired overseas possessions, they attempted to make claims to marine spaces and sea routes.
In the 16th century, attempts to create and to divide spheres of influence on the Atlantic Ocean were undertaken by Spain and Portugal, since these countries had the strongest maritime fleets at the time. These claims found support in the "Papal Bulls (edicts)", according to which, all of the New World was divided between Spain and Portugal.
The Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494 updated the line of demarcation of the spheres of colonial acquisitions in the Western Hemisphere. To the west of it all seas and lands (discovered and still-to-be-discovered) were given to Spain, and east of the line, to Portugal.
The issue of the second line of demarcation, in the Pacific Ocean, was resolved by the Zaragosa Agreement of 1529.
The sole right of trade and navigation was granted to each of these two countries within the limits of the regions allotted them, including the right to pursue and to seize all foreign shipping appearing in their waters, inspection, taxation with levied customs duties and judgement of their crews under their own laws.
The lines of demarcation between Spain and Portugal
has lessened the maritime rivalry between them, but resulted in heightening
tensions with England, Holland, France and other countries over domination
of sea routes to overseas colonial possessions.
Boundaries of the "lines of demarcation " between Spain and Portugal set forth by the Treaties of Tordesillas and Zaragosa
The development of commercial trade relations between
countries required the elimination of limitations to the use of maritime
space. The spokesman for the advancement of such proposals was a Dutch
lawyer and state figure named Hugo Grotius. His first major work, Mare
Liberum, or, "The Free Seas", was published anonymously in November,
1608, and is addressed to "rulers and free and independent nations of the
Christian world." This document asserted the right of the Dutch to participate
in the East-India trade. Its specific purpose was to sweep aside the claims
of Spain and Portugal on the appropriation of the high seas.
Hugo Grotius (1583 - 1645)
Defending the rights of the Dutch and challenging the right of any nation to claim any part of the open seas, Hugo Grotius objectively worked to protect the common interests of all peoples. Using the basic thesis that the sea is free for everyone to use, he cited the ýRoman right,ţ the essence of which pertains to the ownership of property by purchasing, taking possession, occupying or otherwise transferring it from one owner to another. This cannot be done with the seas.
A large contribution to the development of the principle of freedom of the seas was introduced by Russia. In 1588 Tsar Fedor Ioannovich, rejecting the requirements of the English to close the White Sea to "other foreigners" (and thereby claiming exclusive and trade rights with Russia), wrote: "How it is possible that God's road - the ocean - sea, can be kept open or shut?"
The concept of "freedom of the seas" was advanced by Russia in a series of agreements and treaties. At the conclusion of the Great Northern War between Russia and Sweden in 1721, the Treaty of Nystad provided for the full equality of both sides recognising maritime rights. By this treaty, Russia also asserted her right to be able to exit the Baltic Sea and conduct international maritime trade.
A special value was placed on the Declaration of Armed Neutrality offered by Russia to England, France and Spain on February 28, 1780 during the American Revolutionary War. As a direct result, Russia has acquired the ability to use ports in the Mediterranean Sea from Spain. One of the terms of the Declaration was the principle of free navigation of merchant ships of neutral countries between ports, along shores of the countries at war with each other.
The acceptance of the Declaration made this period special in the history of maritime law, since it advanced principles directed on maintaining the maritime rights of neutral states and a limitation of disagreement between warring nations was formulated for the first time.
By recognising freedom of the seas for neutral vessels in times of war, the Declaration of 1780 and subsequent acts essentially proclaimed the right of all nations free access to the sea in peacetime.
Because of the Declaration of 1780, Russia was able to conclude bilateral agreements with Denmark and Sweden. Later, additional accords were signed with Holland, Prussia, Austria, Portugal and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
Proclamation and the recognition of a principle of freedom of the seas has gradually resulted in limitation of claims of sovereign nations on extensive maritime areas. Attempts to determine a legislative order for territorial claims of waters over which a coastal state assumes authority was first addressed in the 10th century by Norway. There were various criteria for defining the width of these waters. One such criterion extended the limit to the horizon from the shoreline, and was the basis for a number of the national laws that existed until the 18th century.
At the beginning of the 18th century, a widespread doctrine proclaimed that "the authority of the coastal nation terminates where she can no longer control it with her weaponry." From that time, the limit of sovereign authority of the maritime countries over coastal waters has become to limit by a swath, the width of which does not exceed distance of the flight of a cannonball from the shore. The average distance of flight was about 3 miles.
In the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century, the USA, England and a number of other states proclaimed territorial sovereignty of their coastlines out to a distance of 3 miles. By insisting on this claim, they attempted to ensure their fleets the free right of passage near the shores of another country. Russia was among the countries which did not recognise the 3-mile limit as the rule of the international law.
The rapid development of artillery and the subsequent increase of distance of its firing power (to the end of the 19th century, this was up to 10-12 miles), promoted that "the rule of the cannonball" determines the width of territorial waters in miles.
A rather long historical precedent places special marine zones adjacent to coastal nations. These were called "adjacent zones." In 1736, England proclaimed a 12-mile marine customs zone. The customs zone of the USA was proclaimed in 1799 and made it 12 miles wide; in France, the 12 mile zone was established in 1817 and in Russia, in 1909. Article 1 of the Law of the Russian Empire stated: "A space of water 12 nautical miles from the line of the greatest extension from maritime coasts of the Russian State, both on the continent and on sovereign islands, is recognised as the customs zone, within the limits of which both Russian, and all foreign vessels are subject to supervision on the part of Russian authorities."
The problems of international maritime law had not lost their importance in Russia, and after the events of 1917. On 27 February 1918, the Soviet government adopted the decree establishing a 12-mile zone of territorial waters.
In the USSR, constant attention was given to the problem of straits used for international navigation, first of all, on the Baltic and Black Seas.
In 1924, at the Rome conference on the limitation of naval armament, the Soviet delegation introduced the proposal for closing the straits of Sund, Small Belt and Large Belt to military vessels of countries which do not have an exit to the Baltic Sea. Only military ships of the states located on shores of the Baltic Sea, should have the right to enter and exit through these straits. The Proposal of the Soviet delegation was not accepted.
At conferences in Lucerne (1923), Montreux (1936) and all subsequent conferences on the Law of the Sea, the Soviet Union tried to solve the problem on the Black Sea straits in a spirit of mutual understanding and respect for the sovereignty of Turkey, and to ensure freedom of peaceful passage and the safety of all coastal Black Sea states.
In March 1930, by the decision of the Assembly of League of Nations a conference was called to take up for consideration some of the problems of international maritime law. Fifty-one countries took part in the Conference. Problems relating to the width and sovereignty of territorial waters, the necessity for regulation of use and exploitation of natural resources of the World Ocean, defining adjacent zones, etc. were considered.
Disagreement between the participants and the reluctance of large colonial nations to consider the interests of other, less-powerful nations caused the failure to achieve agreement on even one of the problems at hand.
The conference, nevertheless, enabled nations to
update their positions on problems of the international legal sovereignty
on the World Ocean, and thereafter facilitated the development of the rules
and norms of international maritime law.
Information provided by HDNO: http://www.oceansatlas.com/unatlas/about/ContactInfoForHDNO.html