Issue 10 2022

Privatisation of Policing at Sea by States and the European Union and its Challenges under International Law


This article discusses the privatisation of policing at sea, in the form of the delegation of police powers by States and the EU to private vessels. Admittedly, such privatisation has significantly increased the last years and gives rise to numerous international law questions, including questions concerning the consistency of such practice with international law, the prerequisites under the law of the sea for the exercise of such law enforcement powers by these private vessels, as well as questions concerning international responsibility and immunities. This article addresses the above questions, exploring inter alia the lawfulness of this privatisation under general international law and the jurisdictional bases through which States, or the EU, may lawfully delegate policing powers to private actors. It concludes that, notwithstanding its innovative character, this practice remains subject to the general principles governing law enforcement at sea, including principles of legality and reasonableness.

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