In 1609, the celebrated Dutch Jurist Hugo Grotius proposed the Freedom of the Seas that has become an integral part of modern International Law today. By the second half of the 20th century, coastal states had started demanding offshore-fishing rights, exploitation of resources and the conservation responsibility of maritime heritage. In the First United Nations Conference at Geneva in 1958, and the second conference in Geneva, 1960, third conference in Caracas in 1973, later in Geneva and New York, the problem was discussed; but unanimity decision could not be arrived at for a long time.
According to some, the earlier doctrine of Freedom of Seas, the Laissez Faire "has been designed specifically to favour the strong countries over the weak countries, the industrialised countries over the poor, and the developed over the developing," Njenga in Payoyo (p.69), because there are inequalities in the traditional law of the sea. Hence it was necessary for the modern doctrine to adjust well with the Doctrine of Coastal State Sovereignty. Countries outside Europe feel that the present law is rather 'Eurocentric'
"The idea that beyond the narrow confines of the territorial sea, the Coastal State would retain jurisdiction and control over adjacent resources, living and non-living, as well as all economic activities conducted therein, was realised through the sui generis regime of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)," (Ibid, p.72).
Modern Freedom of the Seas governs unrestricted access to the high seas, beyond the national territory. Initially, it was established by Romans, was challenged by Papal Bull in 16th century, trying hard to divide the oceans between the then naval powers of Portugal and Spain. In the 18th century, the rights over the territorial waters were extended up to 3 miles. During the war, United States argued that neutral ships should be permitted into the territorial waters to carry goods, while military blockade, war planning all affected this law in those unsettled days. When naval power was at its zenith, this law was an important bone of contention. After the French revolution when Britain and France imposed maritime blockade, the matter went to the extent of America declaring war on Britain!
During the war, this law was interpreted according to eash country's convenience. "Germany interpreted it as overthrow of British naval supremacy; Great Britain invoked it against the unrestricted use of the submarine by Germany; while the United States appealed to it for the protection of the American commerce against illegal interference by both belligerents" Latane (1919, 161).
Now there are arguments that even the modern doctrine is not highly coherent about the resources, findings, wildlife, treasures, heritage and the ownership of all of them. They have been treated on the principle of 'out of sight, out of mind'. "The fact that we have not thought of ocean space and resources in this way is both an error of omission and commission" Orbach, http://www.tos.org/oceanography/issues/issue_archive/issue_pdfs/16_1/16.1_orbach.pdf
This Doctrine had been an ambiguous "The rule in International Law, therefore, generally, is that neutral property must not be seized if it is not contraband, or if it is not going to break a blockade. There's the rub. Contraband articles