HomeFAQsMaritime LawWhat are international waters and what are their boundaries?

What are international waters and what are their boundaries?

International waters are those located outside any nation’s territorial waters. Some refer to these waters as the open seas or the high seas. No nation ‘owns’ these waters. They generally extend about 200 nautical miles from the shore of a country, and are broken into different sections in which the particular country has various rights.

Maritime workers may be able to pursue injury claims under the Jones Act even if the injury occurred on international waters. Still, if your injury occurred while on international waters, seek legal consultation with an attorney. A lawyer can review your options with you and help you take legal action against a negligent employer.

The U.S. Maritime Boundaries

The United States exercises sovereignty over its territorial waters, which begin at the low-water level baseline as marked on maritime maps, the:

  • territorial sea (extending 12 nautical miles from the baseline);
  • contiguous zone (extending 24 nautical miles from baseline); and
  • exclusive economic zone (extending 200 nautical miles from baseline, plus boundaries with adjacent countries).

The territorial sea is the United States’s sovereign maritime zone. The contiguous zone is next to the territorial sea where the U.S. can prevent infringement of law within the territorial sea. The exclusive economic zone encompasses the contiguous zone; the U.S. has the exclusive right to manage natural resources, establish structures, and perform other actions.

Further, the U.S. currently has treaties (boundary agreements) with the following countries:

  • Canada;
  • Cook Islands;
  • Cuba;
  • Mexico;
  • New Zealand;
  • Niue;
  • Russian Federation;
  • United Kingdom; and
  • Venezuela.

Proving Negligence Caused Injuries in International Waters

Like any other Jones Act case, injured maritime workers must establish that an employer’s negligence caused their injuries. Workers must qualify as a seaman, which means you spend most of your time on navigable waters in service of a vessel. This includes international navigable waters.

One potential scenario where negligence might cause or contribute to injuries in international waters is if a vessel is a victim of piracy. If the employer was negligent in deterring or managing a pirate attack, injured maritime employees may file a claim.

But the Jones Act can cover any injury related to an employer’s negligence, even if it occurred while in international waters. After all, the nature of many seamen’s work is traveling to other countries, so the Jones Act extends beyond the maritime boundaries of the U.S.

Importance of Seeking Legal Advice after Injuries in International Waters

The Jones Act may present a variety of complex issues, and many maritime workers are unsure of their rights after injury beyond intentional water boundaries. Contact an attorney familiar with maritime laws to better understand your rights. Call The Young Firm at 504-680-4100 for FREE or fill out our contact form to set up a consultation with an attorney so you may discuss your case.

have a question?