A new treaty makes it illegal for ships to carry weapons of mass destruction and allows states to search in international waters vessels suspected of being used as floating bombs, the U.N.'s maritime body said on Monday.Looks like the US got most of what it wanted...
The law also makes it an offence for merchant ships to be used to transport equipment and individuals involved in carrying out terrorist acts and provides a legal basis for the arrest and extradition of suspects.
The U.N. International Maritime Organisation (IMO) said the treaty, adopted by 126 countries representing 82 percent of the world's fleet, was thrashed out at a conference in London last week and needs to be ratified.
In a statement on Monday, IMO Secretary-General Efthimious Mitropoulos urged governments to ratify the treaty quickly to send "a strong message that the maritime community is eager and willing to protect the industry against acts of terrorism."
Delay would strengthen the hand of those trying to exploit loopholes in existing laws, he said. Mitropoulos said the industry had to be fully armed to counteract the "gravest menace it has ever faced".
Since the attacks on the United States in September 2001, governments have become increasingly concerned that the legal framework surrounding international shipping made maritime traffic vulnerable to use by militants.
In particular, they were worried that countries were unable to order a ship flying another nation's flag to stop and be searched in international waters without running the risk of a major diplomatic incident.
Ships trading far from a country's territorial waters, in the deep ocean, are classed as sovereign entities. Nations have much more power to search a suspect vessel within their own territorial waters extending to 12 nautical miles from shore.
Only last week a U.S. coastguard chief told a maritime security conference in Copenhagen that Washington wanted to be able to search ships as far from its shores as possible to deter a possible attack it fears could come from the sea.