Maritime Security

Water is the major source of life. Even though water occupies a major portion of earth's surface, it is the geographical location and resources in it that makes them important. We can categorise this water as oceans and seas.

Ocean is a large water body of saline water where as seas are large body of water which may or may not be connected. Most of the seas are fully or partially enclosed by land. Today, the economic growth of countries depend on oceans because it is through these large water bodies that trade is conducted and import and export of products, oil and others are shipped. Hence, securing such activity is called maritime security.

Maritime security involves protecting the nation's sovereignty from threats arising from the oceans and seas. It includes protecting coastal areas, safeguarding the available ocean resources such as fish, offshore oil and gas wells, port facilities, etc. It also means maintaining freedom at sea for movement of our ships and facilitating and protecting trade.

Following are the elements of maritime security:

  • International and national peace and security
  • Protection of sea lanes of communication
  • Sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence
  • Protection from crime at sea
  • Access and security to the resources at sea
  • Security of seafarers and fishermen
  • Environmental protection

Maritime Zones

States that have access to the sea are called coastal state. India is a peninsula because it has huge water ways surrounding its land on three sides. Such states have sovereign rights to use all its surrounding water ways for various purposes. Essentially the purposes are:

  • To explore, exploit, and manage its natural resource in the sea bed for economic purposes
  • Establish rights over use of artificial islands and installations and structures for marine scientific research

The maritime zone recognized under international law includes internal waters, territorial sea, the contiguous zone, the exclusive economic zone, the continental shelf and the high seas.

1. Internal water: Internal waters are the waters on the landward side of the baseline from which the distance of the territorial sea is measured. States have full sovereignty over its internal waters. Internal waters are considered as a part of land territory.

2. Territorial Sea: States can claim twelve nautical miles from its baseline. The coastal state has the authority over the territorial sea, the air space above it, and the seabed and subsoil beneath it.

3. Contiguous Zone: Each coastal state can claim a contiguous or adjacent zone. It is beyond the territorial sea and extends seaward up to 24 nm (nautical miles) from its baseline. In this zone coastal states can exercise customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws.

(Nautical mile is a unit of measurement at sea or air. One Nautical Mile is equal to 1852 metres or 1.852 km.)

4. Exclusive Economic Zone: Coastal states can claim an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) beyond and adjacent to its territorial sea that extends up to 200 nm towards sea from its baseline or out to a maritime boundary with another coastal state.

5. High Seas: The High Seas lie beyond 200 nautical miles from shore and are open and freely available to all countries. On the High Seas, no state can act or interfere with others using the seas. The law gives freedom of activity in six areas: Navigation, over flight, laying of cables and pipelines, artificial islands and installations, fishing, marine scientific research.