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Advancing the Law of Vessel Interference by Non-State Actors

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Document pages: 28 pages

Abstract: Greenpeace members who in 2018 boarded the M T Stolt Tenacity in the Gulf of Cadiz and the M V Mermaid Searcher in the Port of Taranaki, New Zealand, continued a pattern of conduct in the maritime environment that implicates navigational freedoms, human rights, and security. Vessel interference by nonstate actors—activities that could jeopardize safety and violate the law—represent an urgent challenge to transnational security as well as high seas freedoms.The ability to express contrary views lawfully is largely protected by national laws as well as multinational human rights instruments. However, synchronized attacks on vessels, the ramming of ships, and noncompliant boardings are illegal activities. Despite striking differences between peaceful expressions and vessel interference, an uneven judicial methodology exists with respect to the latter. A patchwork approach has resulted from a predominant focus by some jurists on the propriety of maritime law enforcement responses, along with misguided considerations, rather than primarily on whether the protest activity was lawful, undermined freedom of movement or prejudiced the legitimate economic interests of others. This article advocates for the use of ten judicial considerations when examining vessel interference to better position courts to take a holistic judicial approach to victim impact, commerce, security, and navigational freedoms.

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