Fun Lessons in Maritime Law

I just watched the movie “The Martian” – I know, I’m late to the party, but I don’t get out much. Wouldn’t you know it, a movie about a stranded astronaut on planet Mars that holds within it a fine, enlightening lesson on maritime law and how one becomes a pirate by seizing unclaimed abandoned property. And it may even be a clue into how “they”are doing it to us. Huh!

Then the next morning, an article on the US Navy running a navy ship through disputed waters in the South China Seas and another few tips on maritime law. Huh!

Let’s see if we can connect the dots in the lessons shall we?

..guided missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur made the “innocent passage” off Triton Island in the Paracel island chain, which is claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam.

No Chinese navy ships were in the area at the time the US destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of the tiny 1.2 square kilometer island

[USA] “…the United States takes no position on the various claims to the island, it does not recognize any claimant’s right to its territorial waters. [because they do not recognize the claim to the island there are no territorial waters]”

..Beijing quickly responded, saying the move violated Chinese law… [they rely on Chinese law? Is US bound by Chinese law?]

[China] “The US warship, in violation of relevant Chinese laws, entered China’s territorial waters without authorisation….” [no authorization needed if claim to island not recognized therefor no territorial waters]

[China] “We urge the US side to respect (and) abide by relevant Chinese laws, to do more things conducive to Sino-US mutual trust and regional peace and stability,”

China claims virtually all of the South China Sea, while the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have partial claims.

China has asserted its claims by rapidly building artificial islands in another South China Sea island chain, the Spratlys, raising tensions in the region.

[China] Port facilities, air strips and military buildings have gone up on the built-out islands, prompting US warnings that it would assert its rights to “fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.” [now they claim international law as if their land claim/territorial water claim was recognized]

[USA] “This operation challenged attempts by the three claimants — China, Taiwan and Vietnam — to restrict navigation rights and freedoms around the features they claim by policies that require prior permission or notification of transit within territorial seas,” [if USA does not cruise through the area as if no valid claim, then the presumption of a valid claim may stand]

[USA] “The excessive claims regarding Triton Island are inconsistent with international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention.” [because a valid claim is not recognized maritime law re territorial water not in effect]

[USA] “Davis added that while the United States takes no position on sovereignty claims in the South China Sea, “we do take a strong position on protecting the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all countries. All maritime claims must comply with international law.[since no valid land claim USA must continue to sail/fly the area to re-assert it as unclaimed territory – China claims it, if no one says no we can still go there, then it must be theirs and recognized as such]

Download PDF of Article US warship sails by island claimed by China: Pentagon – Yahoo News

Movie “The Martian” and Becoming A Pirate

Below is the law part of the movie dialogue script from the “The Martian” exposing the process of making a claim under maritime law…for some of you it will click… for others…study more or ask questions below.

Time in movie “The Martian” – Matt Damon – 2015 : 01:38:14

“I’ve been thinking about laws on Mars.
There’s an international treaty
saying no country can lay claim…
To anything that’s not on earth.

And by another treaty, if you’re not in any country’s territory…
Maritime law applies.

So Mars is international waters.

Now, NASA is an American non-military organization.
It owns the habitat.

But the second I walk outside, I’m in international waters.

So here’s the cool part.
I’m about to leave for the schiaparelli crater…
Where I’m gonna commandeer the Ares 4 lander.
Nobody explicitly gave me permission to do this…
And they can’t until I’m on board the Ares 4.

So that means I’m gonna be taking a craft over…
In international waters without permission.
Which, by definition, makes me a pirate.
Mark Watney, space pirate.

Has anyone taken your vessel over without permission?

Did you abandon it in “international waters”?

Have you made a claim for your vessel that is recognized in law?