Since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, the concept of open seas for trade has been considered a cornerstone of the international order. But despite the recognition of the importance of open trade, the seas remained an anarchic place for hundreds of years.
In 1982, the United Nations passed the Convention on the Law of the Sea. This law marked the first successful international agreement for collaborative maritime security. During this time, maritime law shifted from focusing on the prevention of naval warfare — which is an incredibly rare occurrence in the present day — to ensuring the security and safety of the oceans for all to use for trade.
This focus on security, and the doctrine of the Freedom of the Seas, allowed maritime trade to prosper. Today, 90% of all trade is conducted via the sea. However, maritime trade continues to remain threatened by a global resurgence in piracy and illicit trade on the high seas.
Norwich University has released the following infographic documenting the rise of the law of the sea and international maritime trade, charting four centuries of one of the most important concepts in international peace and security.
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