The Territorial Sea

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This has been a controversy for a long time. First, visibility was used. Then as long as a cannon shot from the shore would go. The Scandinavian countries have always used a fixed number, first four miles. In 1782 the fixed distance was finally settled worldwide but at three miles. Although cannons could not shoot three miles it gained recognition immediately.

Although it was recognized it was never formally and unanimously accepted. The Scandinavian countries for example consistently claimed the four mile limit and several other countries did as well claim more than the three miles. Before WW1 the three miles were being challenged by so many that the jurisdiction is very vague in many occasions.

The Hague conference was supposed to settle the dispute but it failed. Then the UNCLOS conferences in 1958 and 1960 tried to find a solution but again, with no settlement.

Finally at UNCLOS III the “twelve mile or more” territory was accepted. The idea was to bring coastal waters and the fishing, pollution and so on by foreign vessels, under control.

To sum: The Law of the Sea sets the limit at twelve miles.

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