Loss of Innocence - The interdiction of the Grace 1 and the use of economic sanctions to limit innocent passage
Abstract: The right of innocent passage has been a staple in maritime law since the 17th century and is an important part of the freedom of the seas, granting free passage to ships that wants to travel a state’s sea territory. With the growing complexity of the world however, the freedom of the seas is slowly being pushed away by coastal states increasing need to regulate and protect their own shores and waters. The 4th of July 2019, Gibraltar took the decision to take it a step further and decided to detain an Iranian oil tanker named the Grace 1 that was headed for Syria. The reason for this was to enforce EU’s economic sanctions, sanctions not in any way related to the right of innocent passage or Iran, a state with no responsibility to follow EU’s sanctions. With an already crumbling freedom of the seas, the danger of such a decision taken by an entity such as Gibraltar is clear. What makes this matter worse is the tool Gibraltar chose to use, economic sanctions. Economic sanctions are a highly criticized and volatile tool, often with terrible consequences to an innocent population. Gibraltar’s decision to use it for hindering the passage of ships risks expanding the use of such a tool as well as giving further recognition to it, damaging the stability of the world in the process.The thesis examines Gibraltar’s conduct when it detained the Grace 1 from the perspective of international maritime law and examines the consequences should Gibraltar’s conduct continue. It examines the right of innocent passage together with economic sanctions as a tool for limiting it and compares it to other alternatives for interdiction. The thesis concludes that if Gibraltar’s conduct would continue it could have a large negative impact on the right of innocent passage and that Gibraltar should not have interdicted the Grace 1, regardless of method used to legitimize it or the intention behind it.
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