Existing customary international law and practices provides flexibility U.S. needs to defend against maritime terrorism
Imagine if you will, the scuttling of a Supertanker off our coast and the intentional, again think of the word intentional, release of millions of gallons of petroleum products into the water column. If done on the Grand Banks it would destroy some of the world’s most productive fisheries for generations. If done near a coastal nuclear power plant it can cause irreversible damage, or at a minimum, force it to shut down for years as its coolant is dependent upon clean coastal waters. Fears that a terrorist operation may use a ship to spread an air-borne pathogen or toxin such as Anthrax along our densely populated coastline are very real. So too is the possibility of utilizing an LNG tanker as an enormous Fuel Air Explosive. The several instances of Container Ships being used to mount terror attacks, such as the suicide bombings in Israel last week is a great cause for alarm. Recalling the extensive damage Texas City, Texas and Halifax, Nova Scotia were subjected to as a result of vessel-borne accidents should never be far from our minds.
The point of all this is that the environmental provisions of the Law of the Sea Treaty are inadequate to address the most likely and potentially most devastating, environmental threats facing the United States today. Of course, the environmental provisions are also closely coupled with the navigation and high seas articles found elsewhere in the Treaty – they are, in fact, inseparable. These treaty provisions afford a measure of immunity and freedom of access to our coastlines that, in the current era, are inimical to our national interests and the health and safety of the American public. While I am not advocating a draconian reversal of hundreds of years of traditional state practices I am stating that we are better off, as a nation, relying on the ambiguities of constantly evolving traditional practice than binding ourselves to a formal treaty that will severely constrain our ability to protect our population from devastating attack.