China Expands Its Navigation Laws Beyond Its Coastal Waters

(Source: Pixabay)

Beijing has revised its domestic maritime navigation law to substitute references to China’s “coastal waters:, instead with references to China’s “maritime jurisdiction.” The change removes a previous significant legal restriction on Chinese maritime law enforcement in areas far from China’s own shores.

Although Beijing revised law will apply to navigation and maritime safety, emphasis on “the sea areas within the jurisdiction of China” has stoked increased anxiety over the navigation of ships in the wider Indo-Pacific region. Creating increasing controversy, China claims sovereignty over the vast majority of the South China Sea, including areas located hundreds of miles beyond the 12-nautical mile limit accepted under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). China also has developed multiple islands, some on mere outcroppings of rocks, by greatly expanding those areas and there building forward military bases equipped with air defense systems, strategic runways and piers for naval vessels.

Under the expanded authority of the revised “Maritime Traffic Safety Law”, the agency is now sanctioned to order foreign-flagged vessels to depart Chinese-claimed waters if the vessels are deemed a security threat,. China also now claims it can pursue a vessel into international waters, with law enforcement, if needed. China’s transport department claims it may enforce Chinese “certificate” paperwork requirements for any vessels carrying radioactive cargo in Chinese-claimed areas. The MSA is now also authorized to establish ship routing and reporting areas, traffic control areas and restricted navigation areas. Ships passing through important fishery waters, areas with dense maritime traffic, ship routing areas and traffic control areas must be more vigilant, maintain lower speeds, and comply with special navigation rules, according to China’s new procedures.

“This law is developed for the purposes of strengthening maritime traffic management, maintaining the maritime traffic order, ensuring the safety of life and property, and safeguarding the rights and interests of the state,” states the law as revised and adopted by the Chinese National People’s Congress in April.

These revisions to China’s Maritime Safety Law follow just months after the passage of China’s also controversial Coast Guard Law, which allows the Chinese Coast Guard to “take all necessary measures, including the use of weapons, when national sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction are being illegally infringed upon by foreign organizations or individuals at sea.” The new Chinese Coast Guard Law also allows the agency to halt construction or destroy structures on Chinese-claimed land features, set up temporary exclusion zones, and board foreign vessels within Chinese-claimed waters.

The above is a summary of one or more news stories reviewed by the author of this article. It may contain comments or views of the author only.

This article is intended for general interest and does not constitute legal advice.

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