In International Law, navigable waters are classified under three (3) headings from the land outwards to the open sea. First the Internal Waters/Territorial Sea (waters), then the Contiguous Zone and the exclusive Economic Zone.
(1) Internal Waters/Territorial Sea
- Internal Waters comprise all those waters, which lie within the base line of the coast. They consist of land-locked waters, rivers, ports and harbours.
- The Territorial Sea consists of a belt of the sea extending outwards from the base line for twelve (12) nautical miles.
(2) The Contiguous Zone
This belt of water consists of the internal waters and territorial sea to twenty-four (24) nautical miles seaward. Within this zone the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Coastguard enforces laws pertaining to Customs Regulations, Sanitary Regulations, Immigration Control and Fisheries.
(3) Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)
The Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), consists of a belt of water extending two (200) hundred nautical miles from base line to seaward. This area is mainly used for the exploitation of our fishing industry. Foreign fishing vessels are often caught in these areas. Whenever a vessel is caught in the EEZ it is heavily fined and can also have its gear confiscated.
A nation’s legal control over the territorial sea is the same, generally, as its legal control over its internal waters. Within this belt of water according to international law, ships do enjoy the right of innocent passage for the purpose of traversing that sea without entering the internal waters of a country. The local Coastguard can enforce all the country’s maritime laws within this body of water.