The legal status of the contiguous zone in international maritime law
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In 2005 contiguous zones have been established by more than seventy states. Poland since 1932 has had three mile of the territorial sea and three mile of a contiguous zone which disappeared in 1978 when twelve mile territorial sea was proclaimed. First claims by coastal States to control rights in zones contiguous to their territorial seas, can be already found in XVIII century. In the first half of XX century the contiguous zone became a customary norm. In 1958 the I Geneva Convention determined its status providing that the coastal State in twelve mile zone of the high seas contiguous to its territorial seas may exercise the control necessary to prevent and punish infringement of customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary regulations. The Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982 in articles 33 and 303 has changed the concept of the contiguous zone recognizing that it can be extended to twenty four miles and giving the coastal State in addition to rights recognized in the Geneva Convention the right to protect the underwater cultural heritage. Polish specialists have argued on several occasions for the establishment of a contiguous zone. This idea has been recently supported by the Advisory Legal Committee by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Commission of Maritime Law of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Several arguments may be presented in favour of the establishment of Polish contiguous zone. It can better protect Polish interests, gives additional rights which do not exist in the exclusive economic zone, enables better safeguarding of frontiers against terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, smuggling of migrants, drug trafficking and give the right to the protection of underwater archaeological finds. The Ministry of Infrastructure recognizing the importance of these arguments, has already undertaken first steps aimed at the change of Polish Bill of 1991 and establishment of the contiguous zone.
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