Governing the Seas

June 10, 2022 • Volume 32, Issue 20
Will established international norms survive growing challenges?
By Zarrín Caldwell


Maritime issues, once low-profile, are increasingly in the spotlight as developments in the Black Sea and pandemic-related shipping bottlenecks affect trade and consumers worldwide. More than 80 percent of global trade occurs by sea, and 90 percent of the world's data flows through undersea cables. As global sea trade has exploded in recent decades, international, regional and national institutions have played important collaborative roles in regulating the shipping industry and advancing maritime security. But many experts say those international regimes are threatened by rising nationalism, increasing geopolitical tensions and a growing naval arms race. For example, China continues to clash with its neighbors and the United States over jurisdictional disputes concerning islands and sea lanes in the South China Sea. In addition, while the high seas were once considered humanity's common heritage, that ideal is increasingly being questioned or ignored, as companies and nations position themselves to exploit lucrative minerals on the oceans' seabed.

Photo of a cargo ship in Bayonne, New Jersey, on October 13, 2021. (Getty Images/Spencer Platt)
A cargo ship heads into port in Bayonne, N.J., last October. Eighty percent of global trade occurs by sea, but international commerce is threatened by nationalism and increasing geopolitical tensions, among other issues. (Getty Images/Spencer Platt)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Aquaculture and Maritime Policy
Jun. 10, 2022  Governing the Seas
May 31, 2019  Global Fishing Controversies
Oct. 2007  Oceans in Crisis
Jul. 27, 2007  Fish Farming
Nov. 04, 2005  Saving the Oceans
Aug. 02, 2002  Threatened Fisheries
Sep. 27, 1985  Whaling: End of an Era
Jul. 16, 1982  Troubled Maritime Industry
Jun. 07, 1974  Oceanic Law
Sep. 29, 1965  National Maritime Policy
Sep. 04, 1963  Fishing Rights and Territorial Waters
Oct. 05, 1955  Territorial Waters and the High Seas
Jul. 21, 1954  Plight of the Maritime Industry
Jul. 10, 1935  Merchant Marine Policy of the United States
Jan. 15, 1929  Sea Power and Sea Law
Jul. 24, 1928  Government Aid to the Merchant Marine
Oct. 17, 1925  The Merchant Marine Problem
Apr. 26, 1924  The New Merchant Marine Situation
Alliances and Security Agreements
Arms Control and Disarmament
Bilateral and Regional Trade
Defense Industry
Economic Analyses, Forecasts, and Statistics
Economic Development
General Defense and National Security
General International Relations
Global Issues
International Economic Development
International Law and Agreements
Military Bases
Party Politics
Powers and History of the Presidency
Protest Movements
Regulation and Deregulation
United Nations
War and Conflict
Water Resources
Water Transportation and Safety
Waterways and Harbors