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Australian maritime identification zone

Hon Phil Goff Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade

16 December 2004

Australian maritime identification zone

Foreign Minister Phil Goff says the proposed Australian 1000 nautical mile maritime identification zone appears not to infringe on the sovereign rights of countries that come within it, or relevant international maritime laws.

"While details and operational issues have apparently not been finalised in Australia, the intention appears to be simply to seek information from vessels within the region, and in particular those heading for Australian ports," Mr Goff said.

"Vessels travelling to Australian ports will, on entering the zone, be required to provide certain information relating to the vessel, cargo, route and intended arrival in port. Similar requirements already exist for air traffic and New Zealand itself requires vessels to provide authorities with similar information 48 hours before entering a New Zealand port. For the average container ship travelling at 21 knots, this in effect equates to a 1008 nautical mile maritime information zone.

"We understand that vessels transiting the zone but not travelling to an Australian port will be asked to provide information on a voluntary basis.

"At a time when all of us are conscious of threats to security, from people and drug smugglers, and terrorist organisations, seeking this information is not unreasonable.

"New Zealand already cooperates closely with Australia on surveillance in the region, including illegal fishing and people and drug trafficking. We would have no problems in broadening that cooperation.

"With respect to restricting movements or, or the interception and boarding of ships, this issue is covered under the international Law of the Sea.

"For flagged vessels, rights of interception on the high seas are limited to areas such as piracy and slavery, unless consent is first gained from the state to which the vessel is flagged. For unflagged vessels there are wider rights of interception. "Australia, New Zealand and other countries are bound to operate under international law and this should not be an issue.

"I am advised that Australia is not seeking to alter or extend its jurisdiction over sea travel. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea guarantees freedom of navigation on the high seas; ie, beyond 200 nautical miles of a country.

"I will be having discussions with Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer on this and other issues during our six-monthly bilateral meeting to be held on Waiheke Island in Auckland this weekend," Mr Goff said.

ENDS

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