30 September 2013

"Stopping the boats" in international waters

Based on my understanding of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the International Convention for the Safety of life at Sea (SOLAS), it occurs to me that there is a couple of responses that the master of an asylum seeker vessel might make upon being intercepted by a Royal Australian Navy or Customs vessel and ordered to head back to Indonesia:

“I understand what you are saying captain about your wish for me to reverse my course but I should make it clear to you that I am exercising my right to freedom of navigation under Article 87 of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea which I believe Australia and Indonesia have ratified. Furthermore, if you believe I am not in international waters but in the Australian contiguous zone then my passengers exercise their right to claim asylum in Australia.”


“I regret to inform you captain that my vessel is unseaworthy and as such I am unable to reverse my course. I therefore intend to proceed to the nearest safe haven. In so doing I exercise my right of Master’s Discretion under Chapter V Regulation 34-1 of SOLAS.”

I wonder what the commanders of Royal Australian Navy and Customs vessels are instructed or expected to do upon receiving either of those responses.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And as Don Rothwell has pointed out over and over again everyone has the legal right to innocent passage on any part of the ocean including to the shore of any country without interference. Funny how we went 360 km to rescue two French people without a murmur.