Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


Allen W. Rigsby

First Page



During the past two decades, there has been an increasing interest in those rules of international law governing the exploration and exploitation of ocean space. This is due primarily to the recent upsurge of technological developments among the highly industrialized nations. Rivalry between the U.S.S.R. and the United States has spurred these two countries, in particular, to a high level of competition in the field of ocean mining technology. The less highly developed countries are also interested in exploiting the ocean space in order to bolster their own economies. The traditional principle governing the law of the oceans has been freedom of the seas. The concept of freedom of the sea has always been subject, however, to a nation's sovereign control over portions of the ocean adjacent to its shores. In recent years, however, there has been a change in this principle, and many nations, including the United States, have extended claims of sovereign control to other parts of the ocean. In the eighteenth century, the international rule as to territorial waters was that they extended only as far as the range of the coastal state's cannon which would enable that nation to assert control over intruders. At that time, the effective distance of a cannon-shot was about three nautical miles. Today, however, there seems to be no agreement among nations as to what the rule delimiting territorial waters is.