From the early 17th to the mid-20th century (the Grotian Era), the oceans were regarded as a minimally regulated ‘free’ space.
The norms/laws that developed in that time were essentially restricted to those considered necessary to protect the notion of Mare Liberum and the free use of the oceans. Since the Second World War, however, the various dimensions of the ocean environment have been experiencing significant - even profound - change. As a consequence, we are certainly now in a process of transition from one era of ocean governance into another, the eventual characteristics of which are not easily predicted. One feature of the contemporary social and normative dimensions of the ocean environment is to do with the treatment of people and the protection of their human rights. How is this achieved in an area covering well over half the Earth’s surface not subject to the territorial jurisdiction of any state? Indeed, is this achievable at all?
Steven Haines is Professor of Public International Law at the University of Greenwich, with specialist interests in law at sea (in both peace and war) and ocean governance in general. A former Royal Navy officer with over thirty years service, including sea-service worldwide, he took early retirement from the Ministry of Defence Central Policy Staff in 2003 to found and head the Department of Politics and International Relations at Royal Holloway College, University of London. In 2008 he moved to Geneva to join the Management Board of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy and to head its Security and Law Programme. He was appointed to his Chair in Greenwich in 2012. He is a former Hudson Visiting Fellow at St Antony’s College (2001) and Visiting Fellow on Oxford’s Changing Character of War Programme (2012-13), and is currently a Senior Research Fellow in the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Rising Powers. He is a Trustee of the NGO Human Rights at Sea.