Archipelagic Sea-Lanes in Indonesia – Their legality in International Law

Chris Carl Forward


Abstract: This paper analyses the legal validity of three declared archipelagic sea lanes (ASL’s) established to enable maritime transit through Indonesia’s archipelago. It examines the process by which the ASL’s were announced and adopted and whether the process used was correct at international law. The paper introduces the reader to the history and background ‘freedom of the seas’ principle’ and the general legal principles imposed on sea borne traffic transiting archipelagos. Having provided the reader with the requisite background knowledge, the paper examines the process which saw the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) encouragement of Indonesia to submit a proposal for the recognition of three ASL’s through its archipelago. The paper suggests that this was done to enhance the IMO’s, claim to be the ‘competent international organisation’ for such declarations. Maritime countries such as the United States and Australia supported this submission because the IMO has an interest in the proliferation of maritime trade and is not necessarily representative of coastal states. The influence of maritime countries over the IMO has led to Indonesia’s submission being declared a ‘partial declaration’. It explores why this is contrary to international law and hence either the 3 ASL’s should be recognised by the IMO as a full declaration, or the IMO’s claim of being the ‘competent international organisation’ for validating ASL declarations should be rejected.


Public International Law; Maritime Law; Indonesia; Archielagos' Archiplagic Sea Lanes; IMO; UNCLOS

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