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International Maritime Piracy: Introduction

How to Research the Law of Piracy on the High Seas

Key Legal Instruments

Many of the treaty texts below are from the U.N. Treaty Database.   These treaties also appear at other websites (see tab: Finding Research Tools).   The articles of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Convention on the High Seas cited below concern piracy.  The other two treaties address attacks and security at sea.

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea arts. 100-107, 110, Dec. 10, 1982, 1833 U.N.T.S. 3 [hereinafter LOS Convention].

Convention on the High Seas arts. 14-22, Ap. 29, 1958, 13 U.S.T. 2312, 450 U.N.T.S. 82 [hereinafter High Seas Convention].

International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, Nov. 1, 1974, 32 U.S.T. 47, 1184 U.N.T.S. 2 [hereinafter SOLAS] (note that there have been several amendments to this, including the 2004 SOLAS Amendments)

Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, Mar. 10, 1988, 1988 U.S.T. 198, 1678 U.N.T.S. 222 [hereinafter SUA Convention] (note that there was a 2005 Protocol to the SUA Convention, that came into force only this past July 28, 2010)

Scope & Audience

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The purpose of this guide is to explain how to find and use the most helpful, current materials on the law of international maritime piracy.  Piracy on the high seas is an international crime and is one of the earliest international crimes in the world.  The main treaty that governs preventative measures on international maritime piracy is the Law of the Seas Convention of 1982 (hereinafter "LOS Convention").

Besides incorporating rules on the prevention of piracy, the LOS Convention has also established new international institutions including the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. Another important specialized organization (also a part of the United Nations) which engages in a wide range of treaty and policy-making functions concerning ocean matters is the International Maritime Organization and its Maritime Safety Committee. They help promulgate treaties concerning ocean matters at the request of the United Nations. For more information on these resources, please view the discussions in Current Awareness and International Organizations.

In addition to the LOS Convention, there are numerous other treaties and legal measures that address threats to maritime safety and security.  This guide provides links to these documents.  This webguide will strive to identify the most comprehensive and informative resources available to learn about these initiatives.  A good starting point would be to begin under Secondary Sources, where one will find a variety of links to current issues and law related to piracy on the high seas.  A researcher who would like to begin researching the law of maritime piracy may want to utilize Finding Research Tools for advice and tips on getting started.  The 'Guide Outline-Quick Links' is found on the right side of this page and may be helpful to a researcher trying to navigate the guide.  The links on the left provide quick access to the main legal instruments guiding the law on international maritime piracy.