Jurisdictional provisions of UNCLOS offer model for handling of same issues in outer space
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The Law of the Sea Convention is a good model for jurisdictional issues pertaining to outer space travel and exploration. Even in territorial waters, states are precluded from exercising civil jurisdiction on foreign vessels. This assures and encourages transitory passage and freedom on the seas. However, states may exercise criminal jurisdiction for ships not engaged in innocent passage.245 Each vessel is required to sail under the flag of its nationality.246 Jurisdiction of the vessel is determined by the flag of the state.247 Vessels are prohibited from flying more than one flag.248 In cases where there is an incident on a vessel, penal and disciplinary action may only be taken by the flag state.249 These strict standards for jurisdiction encourage the non-interference with vessels. In many ways, vessels are treated as islands unto themselves within the territory of the flag state. Its persons cannot be disturbed, boarded, or arrested in international waters except under very limited circumstances, such as piracy.250 Even in territorial waters, coastal states may only assert jurisdictional authority where harm has incurred.251
These provisions in the Law of the Sea Convention would solve many problems which might arise from outer space exploration. Outer space vessels will require crews who have varying expertise and are from various states. By only allowing one state to be sovereign over that vessel, it avoids the problems associated with anarchy or, in the alternative, judging persons by the laws of their nationality. Additionally, no state can enforce its own laws on foreign vessels in any territory in outer space. This policy ensures that states will not abuse laws in order to bar passage to foreign space vessels or to confiscate their cargos. The Law of the Sea Conventions' requirement that "ships shall sail under the flag . . . "252 would be problematic in outer space for obvious reasons. Flags put other ships on notice of their nationality. This would be important for outer space in cases of malfeasance, wrong doing, negligence, rescue, organization, recognition of pirates, etc. Therefore, states should be required to emit a beacon which announces the sovereignty of the vessel.253
The solutions the international community worked out to resolve some of the most contentious issues over ocean governance -- specifically, how to equitably divide up a common shared resource, how to sustainably manage the global commons for the benefit of all, and how to ensure all states have the freedom to navigate a global common -- have potential to serve as the basis for a similar agreement for outer space.