Turkey has suspended a Bolivian flagged ship suspected of carrying drugs in international waters of the port of Tobruk in Libya on 1 February 2016. At the end of the examination, 13 tons of narcotics were seized on board. The ship was brought to Turkey for investigation and prosecution. Is there Turkey’s authority to stop a ship in international waters? In international waters regulated as high seas in United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea(UNCLOS), every State, whether coastal or land-locked, has the right to sail ships flying its flag on the high seas. In another words, every ship on high seas has the freedom of passage. Ships shall only sail under the flag of one State and shall be subject to its exclusive jurisdiction on the high seas.This rule is called “flag state”. But there are some exceptions to jurisdictions of flag states on high seas. These exceptions, which are held in the UNCLOS, include:
1- Maritime piracy
2- Slave trade
3- Illicit traffic in narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances
4- Unauthorized broadcasting from the high seas
5- The use of the right of hot pursuit.
Each state shall use the right to visit on the high seas stated at UNCLOS(article 110) on vessels suspected of having committed one of these offenses. In the case of suspicions, the state that stopped the ship has the authority to seize the ship and carry out the necessary investigations within the scope of this visit. If the suspicions prove to be unfounded, and provided that the ship boarded has not committed any act justifying them, any loss or damage that may have been suffered shall be compensated. The Bolivian flagged ship, which was mentioned above, was stopped by the Turkish state ship on suspicions and the vessel was brought to Turkey to carry out the investigation by seizing the ship because suspicions were on the spot. In this respect, Turkey is suitable for international law to stop and seize the Bolivian flagged ship in the open seas. This is the first anti-narcotics operation of Turkey has undertaken in the open seas.
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