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Monday, October 15, 2018

Spain forces tankers outside the Spanish 200 nautical mile EEZ in violation of international public law

INTERTANKO has previously recognised that following the loss of the Prestige it is understandable that EU member states wish to analyse and address various ways to take measures to protect their coastal waters, including the territorial seas and the exclusive economic zone where there is a realistic threat to the marine environment.

While understanding the concerns of coastal states such as Spain, and France which has also imposed restrictions on certain tankers operating outside French territorial waters, INTERTANKO rejects the claims that coastal states have the right to issue blanket exclusions of ships’ navigation on the high seas, not to mention enforcing such exclusions beyond territorial waters.

Two single-hull tankers, one loaded with fuel oil en-route from NWE to Far East, and the other with Arabian Light and Arabian Heavy crude from East Med to NWE, were recently instructed by the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre, Madrid (MRCC), referring to the so-called “Spanish decree”, to proceed outside the Spanish 200 nautical miles EEZ.  In addition, the tankers were instructed to report position, course and speed every 6th hour.   

It is an accepted principle that coastal states designate traffic lanes for ships in innocent passage through their territorial waters, but very strict limitations apply,  other than to the flag state of a ship, to the  interference with a ship’s free navigation on the high seas/in international waters.

Sovereign states must be curbed from believing that they can take the law into their own hands with impunity.  They should remember that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea covers issues far wider than environmental protection – defence, fishing, underwater exploration. 

INTERTANKO is aware that affected governments and industry will question the legality of the recent interventions against foreign flag ships on the high seas/in international waters at the UN meeting on the Oceans and the Law of the Seas in New York June 2-6th.

It is also expected that at least one major flag state will issue a formal protest to Spain on the basis of the violation of its sovereignty.

INTERTANKO, together with affected owners and other industry associations, continues to actively seek opportunities to address these blatant violations of the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS).

Contact: Svein Ringbakken or Steinar Kr. Digre