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The University of Southampton

LAWS6170 Navigational Law and Practice

Module Overview

Hardly any other principle of international maritime law is so universally recognised as the freedom of navigation, and particularly navigation iure communicationis. Therefore, incidents involving the exercise of traditional passages or emerging navigational practices attract worldwide attention as they always embroil vexing questions over conflicting national and international interests regarding navigational freedoms, on the one hand, and the increasingly prescriptive and enforcement regulation by coastal, port and other States, on the other hand. This novel module is designed to offer you a sound knowledge of the evolving law of navigation, including international waterways, through an advanced syllabus that examines the historical legal principles & rules of navigation law, and nautical customs, in the context of the contemporary shipping standards, and critically assesses national legislation in the light of the expanding corpus of case-law that ranges from high doctrinal considerations over navigational freedoms and practices down to the practical issues of damages award and remedies.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The historical legal principles, nautical customs, current rules and major technical standards that compose the law applicable on international navigation.
  • The evolving practices that feature in the exercise of navigational freedoms within international/ national waters, and international waterways.
  • The framework for the exercise of prescriptive and enforcement jurisdiction on ships/vessels.
  • The development and content of navigation law, in considering – among other factors – also commercial policy considerations, and the challenges that ships may encounter while at the high seas, within waters of coastal sovereignty or specialised jurisdiction, and in special navigation regions.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Identify and explain the internationally accepted navigational passage regimes and historically established navigational customs.
  • Analyse relevant legal materials /primary and secondary sources, including international treaties and case-law, as well as public statutory requirements enacted in leading national maritime jurisdictions, and shipping industry-developed standards, with regards to safe, friendly to the environment, and secure navigation/access to ports, with emphasis upon the documentary and certificated endorsements.
  • Locate and analyse relevant primary and secondary sources, regarding the establishment of prescriptive and enforcement jurisdictional grounds on ships, and the available scope/procedures for inspection and interdiction at sea.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Distinguish relevant from irrelevant materials.
  • Identify and analyse key issues.
  • Think critically, develop coherent arguments in writing.
  • Display clarity and objectivity in written discussion demonstrating an awareness of issue of academic integrity.


The module covers long standing as well as very recent law in relation to navigation, pilotage, routing and traffic management of vessels in all coastal zones and in special geographic areas, eg., the Arctic, or High Risk Areas, eg. piracy, war and sanctions zones. Thus, the selection of topics is annually updated and informed by the ongoing developments and challenges in navigational law and shipping legislation. The syllabus content includes the following thematic units: * The contemporary legal order and the ‘freedom of navigation’ principle; * Nationality of ships; *Passage regimes; Pilotage and navigation in Special and Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas; * Ships ‘in distress’ and ‘in need of assistance’; * Shipping-related matters relevant to navigation in polar waters; * Ship-to-ship activities within coastal maritime zones; * Navigation in ‘high risk areas’ and unlawful acts against the safety of navigation; * The doctrine of ‘hot pursuit’ and interdiction of ships; * Detention and prompt release of vessel/crew.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

This module is taught through seminars (10 x 2hours) which will combine lecture-style and interactive tutorial-style teaching. You are expected to prepare for the seminars by completing allocated reading or any other task. The most important part of learning is your own independent study. This will, however, be closely guided, and firmly tied into the lectures, seminars and assessment. In the seminars you will have the opportunity to present arguments orally to a group of peers and defend your position under challenge.

Independent Study130
Blended Learning20
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

D. Attard, et al. ( 2016). The IMLI Manual on International Maritime Law. 

A.V Lowe – S. Talmon (Eds) (2009). The Legal Order of the Oceans, Basic Documents on the Law of the Sea . 

L.B. Sohn, et al. (2014). Cases and Materials on the Law of the Sea. 

Y. Tanaka (2019). The International Law of the Sea. 



Essay or problem question


MethodPercentage contribution
Open Book Exam  (48 hours) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Open Book Exam  (48 hours) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Open Book Exam 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


Recommended texts for this module may be available in limited supply in the University Library and students may wish to purchase the mandatory/ additional reading text as appropriate

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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