The term "neutral waters" refers to water bodies that are outside the borders of states. These can be oceans, seas, rivers, lakes, underground waters and even swamps.
Seas and oceans outside the territory of countries are also called the "open sea". Ships that sail in neutral waters fall under the laws of the country whose flag is installed on them. If the ship is involved in criminal activities, such as piracy, then any country can intervene and exercise jurisdiction.
Where did the concept of "neutral waters" come from?
From a legal point of view, the concept of "neutral waters" owes its appearance to the Dutch lawyer Grotius. In 1609, his work was published under the title "Free Sea". When, in the early 17th century, several countries, including Portugal and Spain, began to claim complete control over all seas and oceans, the Dutch rebelled, as this would cut off their ability to trade with many foreign ports.
Grotius, a pioneer in international law, defended the right to navigate the high seas. He insisted that the territory of the seas was free for everyone, and that ships could sail freely from one port to another.
In his statements, Grotius relied on Roman law and customs of maritime navigation in Asia and Africa.
The boundaries of the high seas
The idea that freedom of movement on the seas should extend to the coastline never materialized. The question of how far the inland waters should extend has caused a lot of controversy. The danger of smuggling and military attacks prompted countries bordering the seas and oceans to demand the right to the waters located on their shores.
At the beginning of the 18th century, the country's internal waters were considered to be a distance equal to three miles. It was the distance of the cannonball.
In 1982, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea was adopted - a document that confirms the present state of affairs. According to this convention, each country itself determines the width of inland waters. Most countries have expanded this territory to 12 miles (22.2 km). It is usually called the "adjacent zone". About 30 states have retained the same width of 3 miles.
The convention also provides for the possibility of a right to an exclusive economic zone. It is a 200-mile (370.4 km) maritime area within which the coastal state can conduct exploration and have access to the use of marine resources. At the same time, vessels of other states can float freely inside such territory. Not all countries claim the exclusive economic zone.
There is also the concept of "contiguous zone". Its width is 24 miles (44.4 km). Within this zone, the state has the right to stop the ship and arrange an inspection, as well as exercise jurisdiction if necessary, that is, if the laws of this country are violated. The bodies of water that are beyond all of the aforementioned boundaries are considered the "open sea". They are also called "neutral waters".