SECTION 3. INNOCENT PASSAGE
IN THE TERRITORIAL SEA
SUBSECTION A. RULES APPLICABLE TO ALL SHIPS
Subject to this Convention, ships of all States, whether coastal or
land-locked, enjoy the right of innocent passage through the territorial
1. Passage means navigation through the territorial sea for the purpose of:
Right of innocent passage
- traversing that sea without entering internal waters or calling at a
roadstead or port facility outside internal waters; or
- proceeding to or from internal waters or a call at such roadstead or
2. Passage shall be continuous and expeditious. However, passage includes
stopping and anchoring, but only in so far as the same are incidental to
ordinary navigation or are rendered necessary by force majeure or distress
or for the purpose of rendering assistance to persons, ships or aircraft in
danger or distress.
1. Passage is innocent so long as it is not prejudicial to the peace, good
order or security of the coastal State. Such passage shall take place in
conformity with this Convention and with other rules of international law.
Meaning of innocent passage
2. Passage of a foreign ship shall be considered to be prejudicial to the
peace, good order or security of the coastal State if in the territorial
sea it engages in any of the following activities:
- any threat or use of force against the sovereignty, territorial
integrity or political independence of the coastal State, or in any
other manner in violation of the principles of international law
embodied in the Charter of the United Nations;
- any exercise or practice with weapons of any kind;
- any act aimed at collecting information to the prejudice of the
defence or security of the coastal State;
- any act of propaganda aimed at affecting the defence or security of
the coastal State;
- the launching, landing or taking on board of any aircraft;
- the launching, landing or taking on board of any military device;
- the loading or unloading of any commodity, currency or person
contrary to the customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws and
regulations of the coastal State;
- any act of wilful and serious pollution contrary to this Convention;
- any fishing activities;
- the carrying out of research or survey activities;
- any act aimed at interfering with any systems of communication or any
other facilities or installations of the coastal State;
- any other activity not having a direct bearing on passage.
In the territorial sea, submarines and other underwater vehicles are
required to navigate on the surface and to show their flag.
Submarines and other underwater vehicles
1. The coastal State may adopt laws and regulations, in conformity with the
provisions of this Convention and other rules of international law,
relating to innocent passage through the territorial sea, in respect of all
or any of the following:
Laws and regulations of the coastal State relating to
- the safety of navigation and the regulation of maritime traffic;
- the protection of navigational aids and facilities and other
facilities or installations;
- the protection of cables and pipelines;
- the conservation of the living resources of the sea;
- the prevention of infringement of the fisheries laws and regulations
of the coastal State;
- the preservation of the environment of the coastal State and the
prevention, reduction and control of pollution thereof;
- marine scientific research and hydrographic surveys;
- the prevention of infringement of the customs, fiscal, immigration or
sanitary laws and regulations of the coastal State.
2. Such laws and regulations shall not apply to the design, construction,
manning or equipment of foreign ships unless they are giving effect to
generally accepted international rules or standards.
3. The coastal State shall give due publicity to all such laws and
4. Foreign ships exercising the right of innocent passage through the
territorial sea shall comply with all such laws and regulations and all
generally accepted international regulations relating to the prevention of
collisions at sea.
1. The coastal State may, where necessary having regard to the safety of
navigation, require foreign ships exercising the right of innocent passage
through its territorial sea to use such sea lanes and traffic separation
schemes as it may designate or prescribe for the regulation of the passage
Sea lanes and traffic separation schemes
in the territorial sea
2. In particular, tankers, nuclear-powered ships and ships carrying nuclear
or other inherently dangerous or noxious substances or materials may be
required to confine their passage to such sea lanes.
3. In the designation of sea lanes and the prescription of traffic
separation schemes under this article, the coastal State shall take into
- the recommendations of the competent international organization;
- any channels customarily used for international navigation;
- the special characteristics of particular ships and channels; and
- the density of traffic.
4. The coastal State shall clearly indicate such sea lanes and traffic
separation schemes on charts to which due publicity shall be given.
Foreign nuclear-powered ships and ships carrying nuclear or other
inherently dangerous or noxious substances shall, when exercising the right
of innocent passage through the territorial sea, carry documents and
observe special precautionary measures established for such ships by
Foreign nuclear-powered ships and ships carrying nuclear or
other inherently dangerous or noxious substances
1. The coastal State shall not hamper the innocent passage of foreign ships
through the territorial sea except in accordance with this Convention. In
particular, in the application of this Convention or of any laws or
regulations adopted in conformity with this Convention, the coastal State
Duties of the coastal State
- impose requirements on foreign ships which have the practical effect
of denying or impairing the right of innocent passage; or
- discriminate in form or in fact against the ships of any State or
against ships carrying cargoes to, from or on behalf of any State.
2. The coastal State shall give appropriate publicity to any danger to
navigation, of which it has knowledge, within its territorial sea.
1. The coastal State may take the necessary steps in its territorial sea to
prevent passage which is not innocent.
Rights of protection of the coastal State
2. In the case of ships proceeding to internal waters or a call at a port
facility outside internal waters, the coastal State also has the right to
take the necessary steps to prevent any breach of the conditions to which
admission of those ships to internal waters or such a call is subject.
3. The coastal State may, without discrimination in form or in fact among
foreign ships, suspend temporarily in specified areas of its territorial
sea the innocent passage of foreign ships if such suspension is essential
for the protection of its security, including weapons exercises. Such
suspension shall take effect only after having been duly published.
1. No charge may be levied upon foreign ships by reason only of their
passage through the territorial sea.
Charges which may be levied upon foreign ships
2. Charges may be levied upon a foreign ship passing through the
territorial sea as payment only for specific services rendered to the ship.
These charges shall be levied without discrimination.
Convention on the Law of the Sea: Index