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Old 06-06-2020, 10:42   #1
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Maritime Law & Covid-19

As far as I know, under customary international law and UNCLOS, distressed ships have a right of entry into the territorial sea of coastal states. How can countries deny entry/ force departure of ships?

BTW this isn't limited to a pandemic issue. There was recent youtube video channel about a couple that checked out of Thailand only to run into a reef, and had to return to be hauled-out. They had all kinds of problems checking back in because apparently Thailand didn't have regs to deal with such a situation.
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Old 06-06-2020, 10:52   #2
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Re: Maritime Law & Covid-19

As you said, Distressed ships are allowed. As far as COVID, it can be argued that those ships sent away were not "Distressed". I assume you're talking about the cruise ships that were in the news a couple of months ago?

Thailand: The rules were likely there, just not easily found. There are many rules in many countries that don't always get passed on down the line to those at the "front". Politicians sign all sorts of things, and sometimes that's the end of it.

They managed to get back in, but the paperwork that followed was a hassle. That's pretty normal, for an "abnormal" entry. The important thing is, they did get back in, and hauled. I assume the trouble began after that...

I haven't seen the video mentioned, as you haven't added a link.

You're kinda guaranteed safe passage, or a port in a storm, but nobody said it would be easy, or stress free.


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Old 06-06-2020, 11:09   #3
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Re: Maritime Law & Covid-19

No, not cruise ships but for example any boat that faces bad weather, has no more fuel, water, provisions, has repairs etc. all are distressed and subject to force majeure.


Here's some reading: https://2001-2009.state.gov/s/l/2007/112701.htm

https://brill.com/view/book/97890042...18888-s005.xml



So by what right are countries denying entry to ships? They don't have to open up ports if there's a health crisis, but why not let them anchor at rest up etc as the law seems to require?

There's a difference between a vessel that arrives under distress and one that is just visiting. A ship that enters into the waters of a country under such conditions is not subject to the jurisdiction of that country, so really there is no requirement of checking in at all, which is why the folks in Thailand probably had issues presumably but I'm not a lawyer on this board...


(Quite recently there were a couple of ships carrying oil that were denied entry and broke apart at sea, putting the lives of the mariners aboard at great risk. Of course the countries argued that they had to protect their shores from the oil spill, so apparently international organizations are considering setting up designated "places of refuge" for such ships - but this is aside from my point)
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Old 06-06-2020, 16:16   #4
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Re: Maritime Law & Covid-19

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cyrus Safdari View Post
There's a difference between a vessel that arrives under distress and one that is just visiting. A ship that enters into the waters of a country under such conditions is not subject to the jurisdiction of that country, so really there is no requirement of checking in at all, which is why the folks in Thailand probably had issues presumably but I'm not a lawyer on this board...

Any vessel that "enters into the waters of a country" and is not enjoying the "right of innocent passage" IS subject to the jurisdiction of that country.
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Old 06-06-2020, 16:30   #5
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Re: Maritime Law & Covid-19

Not quite. First "innocent passage" applies to territorial sea, whereas ports and anchorages are internal waters (yes those are different areas) so that's apples and oranges. The law says the boats under distress can do far more than just "innocently pass" through territorial seas, but they can enter into internal waters, and the coastal country is obligated to help them with repairs, provisioning etc.

and no, if you kindly read the links provided earlier to the US State Dept site, a vessel that is forced to enter the waters of another country under force majeure conditions is not generally subject to the jurisdiction of that country -- and so doesn't pay customs etc

It appears to be a well settled rule of customary international law that a ship entering a foreign port by reason of force majeure or distress is not subject to the jurisdiction of the port State in connection with actions to relieve the distress.
https://2001-2009.state.gov/s/l/2007/112701.htm

(there are some minor exceptions which haven't all been sorted out, but for example if the vessel was the cause of the distress in the first place, ie: a ship carrying an illegal cargo of cannabis that didn't stop to refuel earlier for fear of being caught then it isn't a distressed vessel.) More from the USCG Boating Safety Training Manual here

This doesn't really answer the question of how these countries can force cruisers out to sea
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Old 06-06-2020, 16:32   #6
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Re: Maritime Law & Covid-19

What ever your rights under law it’s all moot when the guy with a gun tells you “No.” My understanding is countries are require to repatriate citizens. Except Trinidad recently refused to land, repatriate, citizen workers from a cruise ship (Vision of their Seas. IIRC).

I can’t say I’ve heard of any cases where someone in peril has been refused, but I can believe it would happen. The CG or military is told not to let boats in, boarder is closed, and that what they will do. Don’t like it? File a complaint with the UN or through your embassy.

(There was a case I heard about that a guy claimed this, but I had some insight into the Situation and it’s easy to see how it could have turned bad.)
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Old 06-06-2020, 16:48   #7
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Re: Maritime Law & Covid-19

I believe repatriation applies to people who were workers. And while there are indeed many countries where the gun rules, there are plenty that are subject to law and order and have incorporated the principles into their legal system. It may just be that the cruisers have not invoked the issue because they're unaware of it: No, countries can't just force you out into the sea if youre not safe and provisioned etc.

Of course I don't think any cruiser is about to take the issue to the International Court of Justice but I'm just curious if the better-informed who have followed the issue have come across any official explanations of how they're reconciling their cov-d19 policies with their legal obligations to vessels in distress. I believe some countries at least do provide basic services but I just watched another cruiser vid in which the couple were forced out of Cuban waters (after 1 night rest, and receiving some water and diesel) into a storm
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Old 06-06-2020, 17:26   #8
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Re: Maritime Law & Covid-19

Cyrus,

The incident in Trinidad was cruise line workers being repatriated to home.

Here in Dominica several boats have asked to anchor over night under a Q flag for rest. They have all been denied. There may have been the odd one that slipped in and left unnoticed.
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Old 06-06-2020, 17:40   #9
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Re: Maritime Law & Covid-19

Wonder what would happen if the incoming cruisers flew the November Charlie instead of the Q (which is used if you're there voluntarily and want to check in instead of under distress and don't want to check in)
and instead of asking for permission, informed them that youre a vessel in distress so the officials can go stuff themselves. Will the authorities torpedo you? No, whatever they do is better than being stuck at sea in a storm unprepared trying to make it to the next port
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Old 06-06-2020, 17:48   #10
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Re: Maritime Law & Covid-19

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cyrus Safdari View Post
It appears to be a well settled rule of customary international law that a ship entering a foreign port by reason of force majeure or distress is not subject to the jurisdiction of the port State in connection with actions to relieve the distress.
https://2001-2009.state.gov/s/l/2007/112701.htm


This doesn't really answer the question of how these countries can force cruisers out to sea
These sections in your link do appear to answer the question:
"Coastal competence to exclude is not completely overridden however; if the entry of the vessel in distress would threaten the health and safety also of the port and its population, exclusion may still be permissible."
...
"
But a coastal State may still close its ports if its vital interests so require or the entry of the vessel in distress would threaten the health and safety of the port and its population. . . .."
...
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Old 06-06-2020, 18:11   #11
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Re: Maritime Law & Covid-19

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cyrus Safdari View Post
Wonder what would happen if the incoming cruisers flew the November Charlie instead of the Q (which is used if you're there voluntarily and want to check in instead of under distress and don't want to check in)
and instead of asking for permission, informed them that youre a vessel in distress so the officials can go stuff themselves. Will the authorities torpedo you? No, whatever they do is better than being stuck at sea in a storm unprepared trying to make it to the next port
18 months in jail might change your mind on that.

I’m not trying to be a dick about this, pragmatic. What the law says is one thing, what happens to your person in the instant is quite another.

To make a poor analogy, it’s like a sailboat arguing ROW with a VLCC. No point in being dead right.

I am always most kind, polite, and subservient to any policeman, I never know what he had for lunch or how he is getting on with his wife.

As I heard a Judge ask a defendant one time “What possessed you to argue with the Policeman, he has a badge and a gun and a pen and everything, and you are just an old man.”
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Old 06-06-2020, 18:14   #12
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Re: Maritime Law & Covid-19

Quote:
Originally Posted by StuM View Post
These sections in your link do appear to answer the question:
"Coastal competence to exclude is not completely overridden however; if the entry of the vessel in distress would threaten the health and safety also of the port and its population, exclusion may still be permissible.”"
...
"
But a coastal State may still close its ports if its vital interests so require or the entry of the vessel in distress would threaten the health and safety of the port and its population. . . .”."
...
Indeed however they're referring to *closing ports* not the waters of the country generally. So there should be no problem with just anchoring. There's much reading to do on the subject, a lot of nuance, entire textbooks which I haven't read. So, what is a "port", legally? etc.
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Old 06-06-2020, 18:18   #13
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Re: Maritime Law & Covid-19

Many things happen that ought not to happen; many countries do whatever they like in spite of international law. Perhaps they hope no one will sue them in international court, perhaps they don't care if they are sued. This current virus has seen many and many abrogations of constitutional freedoms in my country alone, some suits are beginning to be filed, but if someone's going to sue, they have to have the time and resources to so do. Imagine the paperwork and expense of trying to sue Cuba in international court for not allowing you into Havana. They would not even give you a thought, and you'd spend all your time money on lawyers and filings and all for nothing in the end.
International law is only as strong as the nations involved want it to be. The tiny problems of tiny cruisers, whom most of the world regard as frivolous, luxurious rich folks with their toy boats, are not a huge concern for the powers that be.
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Old 06-06-2020, 18:23   #14
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Re: Maritime Law & Covid-19

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18 months in jail might change your mind on that.

I’m not trying to be a dick about this, pragmatic. What the law says is one thing, what happens to your person in the instant is quite another.

I'm pretty sure that jail would in fact be preferable to drowning, objectively speaking. and nowadays people are being let OUT of jail instead of being taken into them

I understand this general fear of authority, but even authorities generally try to do the right thing and at least don't cause themselves problems, and like I said plenty of countries have actual laws that are actually followed. Aside from that arresting a foreigner is bad enough aside from the diplomatic incident that will be caused, which will be worse if you' force people to sea to die.

Which is why I'm pretty sure that there must be measures taken by countries to aid or at least not hassle vessels that just can't set out to sea, Covid19 or not. Anyone?
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Old 06-06-2020, 18:45   #15
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Re: Maritime Law & Covid-19

Cyrus,

Test that out and send me a note on how well it’s going.
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