Doctrine of hot pursuit (Laws of Sea)

Date: February 27, 2017

laws of the Sea United States India

The doctrine of hot pursuit owes its origin to the law of the seas, and emerged as an exception to the fundamental principle of freedom of the high seas.
The Geneva Convention on the High Seas was eventually folded into the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Article (111) of the latter treaty grants a coastal state the right to pursue and arrest ships escaping to international waters, as long as:
a. The pursuers are competent authorities of the state;
b. They have good reason to believe that the pursued ship has violated the state’s laws or regulations;
c. The pursuit begins while the pursuing ship is in the State’s internal waters or territorial waters;
d. The pursuit is continuous.

If the foreign ship is within a contiguous zone, the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the Continental Shelf, and the Safety Zones in the EEZ or the Continental Shelf then the pursuit may only be undertaken if there has been a violation of the rules and regulations (customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws and regulations of the coastal state) as applicable in the respective regimes (areas, zones).
The right of hot pursuit ceases as soon as the ship pursued enters the territorial sea of a foreign state.
Where a coastal state, stopping or arresting a foreign ship outside the territorial sea on the basis of its right of hot pursuit, fails to justify the exercise, it shall be liable to compensate the ship for any loss or damage cause to it due to the exercise of this right.
This right is particularly relevant to Fisheries management, Maritime pollution laws, and the Seaborne illegal drug trade.
Over the years, this doctrine has been expanded on land, to justify the breaches of territorial sovereignty of foreign states as part of the ongoing pursuit of offenders. For instance, in 1986, South Africa sought to justify its incursions into neighbouring African states on the basis of the doctrine of hot pursuit, inviting the condemnation of the United Nations Security Council.