Legal Status of Sunken State Vessels and Sovereign Immunity

Dublin Core


Legal Status of Sunken State Vessels and Sovereign Immunity


The entry into force in 2009 of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage (hereinafter referred to as ‘UCH Convention’) adopted in 2001 could be regarded as a welcome development to elaborate or clarify any ambiguity of only two marginal provisions as Article 149 and 303 with regard to underwater cultural heritage in United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982 (hereinafter referred to as ‘UNCLOS’). Some texts of the UCH Convention, however, give controversy in fact to the comprehensive international order of the seas in relation to the other provisions of UNCLOS and customary international law, e.g., the definition of underwater cultural heritage, the ‘creeping’ expansion of coastal states’ jurisdiction especially in the EEZ and on the continental shelf, and the sovereign immunity of sunken state vessels [The paper primarily follows to the terminology of the UCH Convention which uses ‘state vessels’. It is defined as ‘warships, and other vessels…that were owned or operated by a State and used, at the time of sinking, only for government noncommercial purposes’ in Article 1(8).] This presentation will especially focus on the issue of sovereign immunity of sunken state vessels amongst them. International law in relation to warships is complex and uncertain and the issue has high political sensitivity as Article 2(8) of the UCH Convention reflects such a circumstance. The purpose of the presentation, therefore, is to explore the legal status of sunken state vessels. It examines the related provisions and their drafting process of the UCH Convention, the legal status of warships which UNCLOS provides and in the rules of customary international law. It will also observe some cases including notable States practices.


Kaè Oyama


The Museum of Underwater Archaeology




Kaè Oyama




Fatal error: Uncaught ValueError: version_compare(): Argument #3 ($operator) must be a valid comparison operator in /home/kknoerl/ Stack trace: #0 /home/kknoerl/ version_compare('8.0.28', '5.6', 'gte') #1 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Xml_Security::isPhpFpm() #2 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Xml_Security::scan('<?xml version="...', NULL) #3 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Xml_Security::scanFile('/home/kknoerl/t...') #4 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Locale_Data::_findRoute('en_US', '/ldml/dates/cal...', '', 'pattern', Array) #5 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Locale_Data::_getFile('en_US', '/ldml/dates/cal...', '', 'pattern') #6 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Locale_Data::getContent('en_US', 'date', Array) #7 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Date->_parseIsoToDate('FFFF', 'en_US') #8 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Date->_toToken('FFFF', 'en_US') #9 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Date->toString('FFFF') #10 /home/kknoerl/ format_date(1696081198, 'FFFF') #11 /home/kknoerl/ Item->getCitation() #12 /home/kknoerl/ Item->getProperty('citation') #13 /home/kknoerl/ Omeka_View_Helper_Metadata->_getRecordMetadata(Object(Item), 'citation') #14 /home/kknoerl/ Omeka_View_Helper_Metadata->_getText(Object(Item), 'citation') #15 /home/kknoerl/ Omeka_View_Helper_Metadata->metadata(Object(Item), 'citation', Array) #16 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_View_Abstract->__call('metadata', Array) #17 /home/kknoerl/ metadata('item', 'citation', Array) #18 /home/kknoerl/ include('/home/kknoerl/t...') #19 /home/kknoerl/ Omeka_View->_run('/home/kknoerl/t...') #20 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_View_Abstract->render(NULL) #21 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Controller_Action_Helper_ViewRenderer->renderScript('items/show.php', NULL) #22 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Controller_Action_Helper_ViewRenderer->render() #23 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Controller_Action_Helper_ViewRenderer->postDispatch() #24 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Controller_Action_HelperBroker->notifyPostDispatch() #25 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Controller_Action->dispatch('showAction') #26 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Controller_Dispatcher_Standard->dispatch(Object(Zend_Controller_Request_Http), Object(Zend_Controller_Response_Http)) #27 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Controller_Front->dispatch() #28 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Application_Bootstrap_Bootstrap->run() #29 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Application->run() #30 /home/kknoerl/ Omeka_Application->run() #31 {main} thrown in /home/kknoerl/ on line 172