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Old 01-08-2019, 01:54   #1
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International boarding rules

I have been discussing international boarding rules here in the Med. After leaving Cartagena, Spain for Smir, Morocco, a Guardia Civil boat improperly approached me about 20 nm off the coast of Malaga, and without saying a word, after matching my 6 knot speed off my port quarter for awhile, suddenly revved up his 60 foot plus surf boat and crossed my bow with barely 2 feet to spare and throwing up a huge wake. If I hadn't immediately backed off my throttle (I was motor sailing), I believe he would have taken off my bowsprit. His crewmember, who was standing outside of the pilothouse, had a look of true fear on his face as they crossed my path. The boat then simply sat about 10 yards off my starboard quarter (I had now stopped the boat) and said nothing. I hailed them, asked what they wanted. He asked me how many people were aboard and where we were headed. I responded. He said nothing, again. So, I finally asked him if it was OK for me proceed, and he said yes. And that was the end of it.
And I did have my American flag displayed off my stern.

So, I have discussed this with a few people. There is some disagreement regarding whether that boat had the right to stop me. I was in international waters, clearly outside Spanish waters. One experienced Med captain says they had no right to stop me. Another former U.S. Navy officer I met told me that any country has the right to stop any boat in any waters if the boat had left one of their ports on that trip.

I have been looking for original source law to answer this question. Anyone know this- and have the source?
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Old 01-08-2019, 02:57   #2
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pirate Re: International boarding rules

Might is right.. more so if they wear a uniform which has a tendency to imbue the wearer with an overdose of arrogance and testosterone.
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Old 01-08-2019, 03:01   #3
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Re: International boarding rules

The coasties definitely stop ships and boats in international waters.Right or no right. Just what boatman says.

They actually ask politely if they are allowed to board. Then arrive with 3 guys carrying automatic weapons. Better answer yes, otherwise at the next port they will pick your boat apart.

Friends of mine did just that, and made the mistake to stop in Florida. They basically tore apart the boat, did not find anything. On being asked for compensation for damage the answer was "Sue us!"

I comply!

By the way, I like the USCG anyhow. They rescued me once, and were very nice about it
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Old 01-08-2019, 03:11   #4
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Re: International boarding rules

UNCLOS82 is the most comprehensive body of international maritime law, which govern the legality of ship boarding. There are also other bilateral and multilateral agreements covering authorized regimes of interdiction.
The doctrine of “hot pursuit” (article 111) is one of the exceptions to exclusive flag state jurisdiction, when all the conditions are satisfied.

UNCLOS ➥ https://www.un.org/depts/los/convent...s/unclos_e.pdf

See also ➥ https://commons.wmu.se/cgi/viewconte..._dissertations

BTW:
From your description, they didn't stop, board, nor detain you.
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Old 01-08-2019, 03:26   #5
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Re: International boarding rules

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Originally Posted by sailing_gal View Post
I have been looking for original source law to answer this question. Anyone know this- and have the source?
You might peruse Martin Fink's 2018 book, Maritime interception and the law of naval operations, The Hague: Asser Press.

I've attached a short excerpt for academic purposes, as an attachment. Only temporary, so read it quickly.
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Old 01-08-2019, 03:31   #6
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What you have to remember about this area is it is rife with drug and people trafficking so incidents like this are not that unusual..
I was pounced on by a RIB full of armed and blacked up Royal Marines as I rounded Europa Point at 2am who lit me up with a spotlight blinding me.. after circling us twice they roared off into the darkness.. have also been approached while underway by Portuguese, Spanish and Italian naval and paramilitary police in my travels though any boarding has to date only taken place during anchorage inspections.
Good to see your on the move again, dont be surprised if you get a rigorous search if/when you head back to Europe.. Enjoy Smir..
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Old 01-08-2019, 03:55   #7
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Re: International boarding rules

Bottom line is your home country can stop you anywhere. Any country is allowed to verify that you're not from their country or stateless when you're on the high seas, that can include boarding you. You're on the high seas after all, the only "law" is international law and treaties so getting all huffy about your fourth amendment rights isn't going to get you far. Once your state is verified, the boarding team can and in suspected drug cases often does request a statement of no objection from your home country which is often granted, at which point yes, they can tear up your boat. In the case of the U.S. Coast Guard if they damage your boat there is a claim against the government process which is relatively straightforward and doesn't involve suits or lawyers in order to be reimbursed. It's absolutely unthinkable that a CG boarding team would say "sue us" in response, the claims process would be the first thing they would reference. If you actually have names and someone willing to testify to the "sue us" statement then please contact me via private message. If not, then no need to repeat false hearsay now is there?
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Old 01-08-2019, 04:01   #8
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Re: International boarding rules

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Originally Posted by redneckrob View Post
If you actually have names and someone willing to testify to the "sue us" statement then please contact me via private message. If not, then no need to repeat false hearsay now is there?
That was many years ago.
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Old 01-08-2019, 05:54   #9
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Re: International boarding rules

They didn't stop you , neither boarded you .
In that sense I would complain to their superiors about bad and dangerous boat handling , I did it once in Greece, and my complains reached the captain of that boat, some of them don't realize how dangerous they or or don't care , so a polite email may do some good.
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Old 01-08-2019, 05:57   #10
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Re: International boarding rules

I know someone who was a professional captain on a 90 foot boat in the Med for a number of years, a privately owned yacht. He said that he occasionally got requests to board and he always stood his ground and said that whoever was there had no right to board the boat because it had a foreign flag. He insisted and he was never boarded and never arrested.

In my case, I would say that they stopped me by cutting across my bow the way they did, I considered it a rather hostile act, they could have sunk my boat! This happened last summer. I decided not to report it or complain, because I am sort of home based in Spain right now and I figured it would only cause me problems. I just want to know what the law properly says. I have heard of boats being robbed when being boarded by some country's police force- petty theft type stuff. You have to watch them.
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Old 01-08-2019, 06:31   #11
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Re: International boarding rules

Normally they will ask you nicely if they can board if they don't have jurisdiction. That being said, if you came from a Spanish port and they followed you out, they can stop you.

I was boarded around by Malaga too. Super friendly guys with a skilful and attractive female driving the boat. Other than the 20 mins it took for them to fill out forms, it wasn't a problem.

When I was in Benalmadena (for my sins) I was moored next to a boat that banging its bow sprit into the concrete dock. I told the marineros about it. Their response was "this is a drug boat" we don't care about that. It had been caught with up to 1.000kg of cocaine being smuggled in from Morocco.

I did take a look to see what easy bits of salvage there might be. As it was I made off with a fender
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Old 01-08-2019, 06:54   #12
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pirate Re: International boarding rules

What you have to remember is Spain and Portugal were till 1975 Dictatorships and much of that mentality lingers on in officialdom and politics.. they dont really care where your from or your flag, below any surface courtesy is a hard ball attitude that is best not tested..
Many a visitor has come unstuck over the years getting it wrong.
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Old 01-08-2019, 07:10   #13
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Re: International boarding rules

As Boatman alludes....there are rules and there is reality, and sometimes those 2 things are contradictory.

I was boarded in Taiwan. I didn't try to argue or exclaim some privilege. They checked my papers and let me on my way.

Basically, when a naval vessel of another country with armed seamen approach I have no problem complying with their orders as I know I have nothing to hide and being belligerent about a boarding would only raise suspicion.
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Old 01-08-2019, 07:55   #14
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Re: International boarding rules

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Originally Posted by Discovery 15797 View Post
Basically, when a naval vessel of another country with armed seamen approach I have no problem complying with their orders as I know I have nothing to hide and being belligerent about a boarding would only raise suspicion.


And so far have only ever been treated with good manners and respect back from what are generally very professional officials. From Europe through the Carib via Brazil. All it takes is to be nice to some other human beings, not a great hardship
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Old 01-08-2019, 08:59   #15
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Re: International boarding rules

What Boatman said in the first reply.

Some years ago PacificWrecks.com researcher Justin Taylan was aboard vessel when he stumbled across ww2 aircraft being illegally removed from Ballele. He reported it to authorities, was boarded, forced to a port and put under house arrest.

Oops. The authorities were implicit in the theft he uncovered. Following a delayed kangaroo trial he paid $67 and was released.

Particularly in third world countries, the authorities don’t enforce the law, they are the law. Be wary, but butt heads carefully.
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