By Alexandros Sainidis
The sea is chaotic. According to modern strategic thought, its vastness prevents the escalation of battles. Similarly, it makes the power exercised by a state more abstract. It is much easier to define the borders of land. When it comes to coastal states, they define maritime zones instead, in order to project sovereignty and sovereign rights upon the body of water. However, there is one zone almost nobody talks about on the TV or the press. Whether it is the Aegean sea or the South China sea, the affected states compete in an attempt to maximise the width of their Exclusive Economic Zones (and Continental Shelf), whereas the width of the Territorial Sea is a dominant theme in Greco-Turkish relations.
As written in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Contiguous Zone is addressing rather soft issues, including some soft security issues:
Contiguous zone – In a zone contiguous to its territorial sea, described as the contiguous
zone, the coastal State may exercise the control necessary to:
(a) prevent infringement of its customs, fiscal, immigration or
sanitary laws and regulations within its territory or territorial
(b) punish infringement of the above laws and regulations
committed within its territory or territorial sea.The contiguous zone may not extend beyond 24 nautical miles from
the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.
The reason why the Contiguous Zone might become more relevant than we think
Notice how the article states that the coastal state may exercise the necessary control in order to prevent the infringement of its sanitary laws. It is easy to imagine that this may apply to the Coronavirus as well. Perhaps, the popularity of the pandemic topic in the media will upgrade the currently trivial importance of the Contiguous Zone.