SECTION 1. GENERAL PROVISIONS
The provisions of this Part apply to all parts of the sea that are not
included in the exclusive economic zone, in the territorial sea or in the
internal waters of a State, or in the archipelagic waters of an
archipelagic State. This article does not entail any abridgement of the
freedoms enjoyed by all States in the exclusive economic zone in accordance
with article 58.
Application of the provisions of this Part
1. The high seas are open to all States, whether coastal or land-locked.
Freedom of the high seas is exercised under the conditions laid down by
this Convention and by other rules of international law. It comprises,
inter alia, both for coastal and land-locked States:
Freedom of the high seas
2. These freedoms shall be exercised by all States with due regard for the
interests of other States in their exercise of the freedom of the high
seas, and also with due regard for the rights under this Convention with
respect to activities in the Area.
- freedom of navigation;
- freedom of overflight;
- freedom to lay submarine cables and pipelines, subject to Part VI;
- freedom to construct artificial islands and other installations
permitted under international law, subject to Part VI;
- freedom of fishing, subject to the conditions laid down in section 2;
- freedom of scientific research, subject to Parts VI and XIII.
The high seas shall be reserved for peaceful purposes.
Reservation of the high seas for peaceful purposes
No State may validly purport to subject any part of the high seas to its
Every State, whether coastal or land-locked, has the right to sail ships
flying its flag on the high seas.
Invalidity of claims of sovereignty over the high seas
1. Every State shall fix the conditions for the grant of its nationality to
ships, for the registration of ships in its territory, and for the right to
ny its flag. Ships have the nationality of the State whose flag they are
entitled to fly. There must exist a genuine link between the State and the
Nationality of ships
2. Every State shall issue to ships to which it has granted the right to ny
its flag documents to that effect.
1. Ships shall sail under the flag of one State only and, save in
exceptional cases expressly provided for in international treaties or in
this Convention, shall be subject to its exclusive jurisdiction on the high
seas. A ship may not change its flag during a voyage or while in a port of
call, save in the case of a real transfer of ownership or change of
2. A ship which sails under the flags of two or more States, using them
according to convenience, may not claim any of the nationalities in
question with respect to any other State, and may be assimilated to a ship
The preceding articles do not prejudice the question of ships employed on
the official service of the United Nations, its specialized agencies or the
International Atomic Energy Agency, flying the flag of the organization.
Ships flying the flag of the United Nations, its specialized
agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency
1. Every State shall effectively exercise its jurisdiction and control in
administrative, technical and social matters over ships flying its flag.
Duties of the flag State
2. In particular every State shall:
3. Every State shall take such measures for ships flying its flag as are
necessary to ensure safety at sea with regard, inter alia, to:
- maintain a register of ships containing the names and particulars of
ships flying its flag, except those which are excluded from generally
accepted international regulations on account of their small size;
- assume jurisdiction under its internal law over each ship flying its
nag and its master, officers and crew in respect of administrative,
technical and social matters concerning the ship.
4. Such measures shall include those necessary to ensure:
- the construction, equipment and seaworthiness of ships;
- the manning of ships, labour conditions and the training of crews,
taking into account the applicable international instruments;
- the use of signals, the maintenance of communications and the
prevention of collisions.
5. In taking the measures called for in paragraphs 3 and 4 each State is
required to conform to generally accepted international regulations,
procedures and practices and to take any steps which may be necessary to
secure their observance.
- that each ship, before registration and thereafter at appropriate
intervals, is surveyed by a qualified surveyor of ships, and has on
board such charts, nautical publications and navigational equipment
and instruments as are appropriate for the safe navigation of the
- that each ship is in the charge of a master and officers who possess
appropriate qualifications, in particular in seamanship, navigation,
communications and marine engineering, and that the crew is
appropriate in qualification and numbers for the type, size,
machinery and equipment of the ship;
- that the master, officers and, to the extent appropriate, the crew
are fully conversant with and required to observe the applicable
international regulations concerning the safety of life at sea, the
prevention of collisions, the prevention, reduction and control of
marine pollution, and the maintenance of communications by radio.
6. A State which has clear grounds to believe that proper jurisdiction and
control with respect to a ship have not been exercised may report the facts
to the flag State. Upon receiving such a report, the flag State shall
investigate the matter and, if appropriate, take any action necessary to
remedy the situation.
7. Each State shall cause an inquiry to be held by or before a suitably
qualified person or persons into every marine casualty or incident of
navigation on the high seas involving a ship flying its flag and causing
loss of life or serious injury to nationals of another State or serious
damage to ships or installations of another State or to the marine
environment. The flag State and the other State shall co-operate in the
conduct of any inquiry held by that other State into any such marine
casualty or incident of navigation.
Warships on the high seas have complete immunity from the jurisdiction of
any State other than the flag State.
Immunity of warships on the high seas
Ships owned or operated by a State and used only on government
non-commercial service shall, on the high seas, have complete immunity from
the jurisdiction of any State other than the flag State.
Immunity of ships used only on
government non-commercial service
Convention on the Law of the Sea: Index