Pirate ship.

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Who governs international water?

May 27, 2019 - 4:00 am

By Amy E. Feldman, Judge Technology Solutions

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Love pirates? Rethink that, matey. 

Blackbeard the pirate made his illustrious career in the 18th century pillaging and robbing ships from North Carolina to the Caribbean. So romanticized is his legend that you can go visit the Blackbeard Pirate Festival this week in Hampton, Virginia to celebrate his crime spree. 

Speaking of crime, if pirates - either the fun parrot-toting types or the actual robbery on the open seas kind - are in international waters, does that mean that no one can capture them? 

Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, each coastal state's law governs the 12 nautical miles from the coastline out to sea. Past the 12-mile mark is what's called international water or the high seas.  

But if you took your boat out that far, you'd still be governed by the laws of the country whose flag you fly. 

Today's pirates, people who attack and rob ships, hijack the vessels and steal the cargo, or in some cases, take the crews hostage, are actually prevalent - there were 201 such crimes in 2018, not exactly behavior to celebrate.  

Renaissance Faire, anyone?