What Can You Get Away With in Worldwide Waters?



You may’ve heard the time period worldwide waters and puzzled what meaning in the case of the regulation. In any case, if you happen to’re not in any nation, does that imply you will get away with stuff you wouldn’t be capable to on land?

Not essentially. On this information, I’ll clarify what worldwide waters are, and why you’ll be able to’t simply do no matter you need while you’re in them.

The ocean

How far off land is worldwide waters?

Worldwide waters are labeled as these additional out than 12 nautical miles from the closest ‘baseline’ – the common coast of a rustic at low tide. Nations may declare management over an extra 12 nautical miles within the ‘contiguous zone’ to guard immigration, sanitary or customs legal guidelines.

There are fairly a number of totally different guidelines surrounding worldwide legal guidelines however broadly, something that’s 12 nautical miles (round 14 miles as measured on land / 22 kilometres) could be thought of to be in worldwide waters.

Worldwide waters are proven in darkish blue on this map…

The international water map

However the mild blue extends greater than 12 miles from the coast on that map, doesn’t it? Sure, effectively completed if you happen to noticed that.

You see there’s one other vital zone value figuring out about, which is the Unique Financial Zone. This extends 200 nautical miles from the coast, and provides international locations management over the financial sources inside that area, akin to for fishing, oil drilling and mining.

Wide ocean

Why is worldwide waters 12 miles?

There isn’t any outlined motive for why the worldwide waters restrict is 12 nautical miles. It’s a barrier that has merely been agreed between international locations when setting the requirements below the 1983 Regulation of the Seas Conference.

Europe was the primary continent to attempt to set up a restrict on territorial waters within the early 1800s and that was set to 3 nautical miles, the common distance a cannon may hearth – so in concept, the gap a rustic may defend.

Some international locations around the globe exceeded this however it was solely people who claimed over 12 nautical miles that sometimes obtained a backlash. And so ultimately 12 nautical miles was accepted. The explanation it’s 12 as a substitute of 10 or 15 is as a result of a league is 3 nautical miles, so setting the border as a a number of of three made sense. The territorial border for waters is at 4 leagues.

Is all the things authorized in worldwide waters?

Not all the things is authorized in worldwide waters. Whereas worldwide waters aren’t coated by one nation’s set of legal guidelines, you might be ruled by the legal guidelines of the country your ship is registered in.

The bahamas flag onboard

In case your ship doesn’t fly any flag, you’re ruled by common jurisdiction, the place every other ship can intervene in your crimes to cease you.

Plus, any victims of crimes can declare the legal guidelines of their very own nation. So even if you happen to don’t fly a flag and also you declare to not be from a rustic your self, in case your crime entails a sufferer, you might be topic to the legal guidelines of the sufferer’s nation.

Instructed learn: How Are Crimes Dealt With At Sea?

Put merely – no, you’ll be able to’t do regardless of the heck you need while you’re in worldwide waters.

1. Ingesting Alcohol

Ingesting alcohol is authorized in worldwide waters, and the minimal consuming age is established based mostly on the nation the place the ship is flagged. You’re allowed to drink if you happen to’re 18 years previous if you happen to’re travelling on a ship registered in a rustic the place that’s the minimal consuming age.

Relating to cruises, most cruise traces will nonetheless preserve the restrict at 21 years of age. Reasonably than observe the legal guidelines of the nation the place they’re based mostly, they’ll observe the regulation of the ports they go to and depart from. So if you happen to’re cruising from the US, you’ll normally must be 21 or older to drink, even while you’re in worldwide waters.

Learn extra: Can you drink on a cruise at 18?

women having drinks at Carnival Cruises

2. Playing

Playing is authorized in worldwide waters for anybody who’s an grownup aged 18 or older. Many international locations have strict legal guidelines on playing, however these legal guidelines don’t apply in worldwide waters. Some firms provide off-shore playing ships purely for many who need to gamble away from their dwelling nation’s legal guidelines.

Relating to cruising, playing will normally be restricted while you’re in territorial waters of a rustic that has stricter playing legal guidelines, such because the US. However as quickly as you’re 12 nautical miles out to sea, the casinos will open and playing is allowed.

Even if you happen to’re cruising in a rustic the place playing is authorized, like within the UK, then the on line casino normally received’t open till the ship is at sea for tax causes.

Inside the casino

3. Doing Medication

It’s typically unlawful to do most medication in worldwide waters – it will depend on the regulation of the nation the place your ship is registered. In case your nation has totally different drug legal guidelines at state/regional stage then the accepted federal regulation will apply.

So if you happen to’re on a cruise, don’t count on to have the ability to take alongside some weed, and even medical marijuana. It’s banned fully, and cruise traces take a tough stance towards folks bringing medication onto the ships.

Even when it’s authorized in your house state, and also you want it for ache administration, you’ll want to seek out a substitute for use throughout your cruise. It’s a tough no.

Learn extra: Bringing weed on a cruise

A girl smoking

4. Homicide

Unsurprisingly, homicide will not be authorized in worldwide waters. Even if you happen to had been on a ship that was not registered to a rustic the place homicide is outlawed, the legal guidelines of the nation the place you or the sufferer are from would deem homicide to be unlawful.

A crime scene

In fact, this additionally applies to homicide on cruise ships. Simply because your cruise ship heads away from territorial waters doesn’t imply that the passengers can begin killing. Cruise ships are typically very secure locations, though there have been very uncommon circumstances of individuals killing others by throwing them off the ship. They’re, after all, tried for homicide.

Learn extra: How many people go missing on cruise ships?

5. Getting Married

You’ll be able to legally get married when you’re in worldwide waters, and it is going to be a recognised marriage again on land. Nonetheless, you’ll must get a marriage license from the nation the place your ship is registered, and it’s vital to notice that some international locations nonetheless don’t enable same-sex weddings.

For that motive, some cruise traces additionally solely provide weddings for a person and a girl, however there are some cruise traces akin to Movie star Cruises which can carry out same-sex weddings.

When you’re getting married on a cruise, the cruise line will enable you to with all the small print of buying your license in order that your marriage is taken into account binding.

Lovely couple getting married

6. Piracy

Piracy is outlined as any unlawful act of violence, detention or act of depredation directed towards a ship, so after all meaning it’s unlawful in worldwide waters. Pirates could not fly a flag from a rustic on their ship, however below worldwide maritime regulation, they’re nonetheless performing illegally as a result of they’ve victims, whose legal guidelines will apply.


Piracy will not be actually a problem for cruise ships. The ships are too massive for pirates to focus on. And even when they tried to, cruise ships might be boarded by particular safety groups to defend the ship. In addition they have sonic growth weapons that may knock pirates off a ship, and high-pressure hoses to stop pirates from boarding.

7. Carrying a Gun

In worldwide waters, you might be permitted to hold any firearm that may usually be permitted below the legal guidelines of the nation that the ship is flagged below. Nonetheless, the carrying coverage additionally will depend on the homeowners of the boat – they’re allowed to set their very own guidelines on whether or not firearms are allowed on ships.

On a cruise ship, you’re not allowed to take a gun with you, even when your private home state permits you to carry one. It’s a must to abide by the principles of the cruise line.

Learn extra: Guns on cruise ships

As a facet notice, whereas this doesn’t actually apply to cruising, it’s authorized to shoot a pirate usually. It’s going to virtually at all times be labeled as self-defence and that’s authorized in most worldwide legal guidelines.

Gun on a holster onboard

8. Fishing

The legal guidelines on fishing in worldwide waters are a bit sophisticated, however fish inside 200 nautical miles of a shoreline belong to that nation, as a part of the Unique Financial Zone. Fish exterior these boundaries are ruled by the Regional Fisheries Administration Organizations.

When you wished to fish inside an EEZ you would want to have a fishing license from the nation that owned the fish in these waters. To fish in waters ruled by the RFMOs, you would want to find out which organisation managed the waters and apply for a license with them.

A person was lately caught fishing off the balcony of a Carnival cruise ship. You’ll be able to learn all about that here.

A man that hooked a fish onboard

9. Mining

Each nation is allowed to mine and drill for oil inside 200 nautical miles of its shoreline – that is the Unique Financial Zone and any sources on this space belong to the nation. Exterior of the EEZ firms don’t mine or drill for oil. In the event that they did, they may very well be challenged on sovereignty by one other nation.

The place international locations lie nearer than 200 nautical miles aside, a median line is drawn. Mainly, whichever nation the sources are closest too, that nation takes possession.

Oil mining rig in the middle of the ocean

10. Viking Funerals

The legal guidelines on whether or not Viking funerals are allowed in worldwide waters are unclear. Viking funerals are typically banned around the globe by most international locations, and in concept, the legal guidelines of the ship used to escort the cadaver would apply.

Viking funerals – the place the lifeless physique is shipped off in a ship surrounded by their possessions, and sometimes set alight, are normally unlawful. Some locations – together with choose elements of the UK – allow parts of a burial at sea, however they need to contain a concrete casket.

When it comes to cruises, don’t count on to have the ability to have a Viking funeral on a cruise ship. They’re already strict sufficient on the scattering of ashes.

A viking funeral

11. Paying Taxes

The legal guidelines for paying taxes, in case you are in worldwide waters, range relying on your private home nation and the time you spend at sea. When you’re from the UK however you spend greater than half your yr in worldwide waters, you usually received’t must pay taxes on any cash you earn.

Calculating the amount of tax to be paid

There are some cruise ships which are designed for folks to stay on. You could possibly, in concept, work remotely on these ships and never must pay any taxes if you happen to’re spending sufficient time on the excessive seas. However the legal guidelines do range by nation so that you’d must verify together with your tax workplace.

Learn extra: Living on a cruise ship

What occurs if you happen to do one thing unlawful in worldwide waters?

When you do one thing unlawful in worldwide waters, you’ll be arrested and tried below the legal guidelines of the ship that you just’re crusing on. In case you are by yourself boat, then every other ship can intervene below common regulation and arrest you as per their very own authorized methods.

When you commit against the law when you’re at sea and also you’re caught, you’ll nonetheless get in bother. Any ship is allowed to behave to stop criminal activity.

And if you happen to do one thing unlawful on a cruise ship, you’ll be able to count on to be despatched to the ship’s jail (sure, they’ve one) the place you’ll keep till both the subsequent port of name or the tip of your cruise. You’ll then be met by law enforcement officials on the shore, who will arrest you below their very own regulation.

In fact, this will depend on the severity of the crime. When you’ve by some means snuck weed onto a ship and also you’re caught smoking it, you won’t get arrested – you might as a substitute simply have it confiscated, otherwise you may be kicked off the ship when subsequent in port, however with out the police getting concerned. It varies.

Learn extra: Do Cruise Ships Have Police?

The bahamas police shack

Closing phrase

If the concept of worldwide waters sounded intriguing and doubtlessly thrilling, I’ve most likely taken the spark out of it a bit now. It’s not an thrilling location the place something goes, you do nonetheless must observe the regulation.

However some legal guidelines are extra different. Individuals who need to gamble can achieve this extra freely on a cruise ship, and a few ships have a consuming age of 18 on the excessive seas in comparison with some consuming ages of 21 on land.

Don’t attempt to break the regulation while you’re subsequent on a cruise although. It’s not value it


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