Naval War College Stockton Center Updates, Expands Law of Naval Operations Handbook

Story Number: NNS171221-08Release Date: 12/21/2017 10:54:00 AM
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By Daniel S. Marciniak

NEWPORT, R.I. (NNS) -- The U.S. Naval War College Stockton Center for the Study of International Law has announced the release of an updated and revised version of "The Commander's Handbook on the Law of Naval Operations," Dec. 20.

Last updated in 2007, the handbook is one of the preeminent legal resources addressing international law and naval operations, and is a joint-service effort coordinated among the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.

The revision updates and expands upon various topics regarding the law of the sea and law of war. In particular, the handbook:

- Updates the history of U.S. Senate consideration of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, to include its 2012 hearings;

- Emphasizes that islands, rocks and low-tide elevations are naturally formed and that engineering, construction and land reclamation cannot convert their legal status;

- Provides more detail on U.S. sovereign immunity policy for Military Sealift Command chartered vessels and for responding to foreign requests for health inspections and medical information;

- Removes language indicating that all U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels under command of a noncommissioned officer are auxiliary vessels;

- Emphasizes that only warships may exercise belligerent rights during international armed conflicts;

- Adds a description of U.S.-Chinese bilateral and multilateral agreements promoting air and maritime safety;

- Updates the international law applicable to vessels seeking a place of refuge;

- Updates the description of vessels assimilated to vessels without nationality;

- Provides detailed descriptions of the five types of international straits;

- States the U.S. position on the legal status of the Northwest Passage and Northern Sea Route;

- Updates the list of international duties in outer space;

- Updates the law regarding the right of safe harbor;

- Adds "honor" as a law of war principle;

- Adds information about weapons reviews in the Department of the Navy;

- Updates the law regarding unprivileged enemy belligerents;

- Includes information about the U.S. position on the use of landmines;

- Expands on the discussion of the International Criminal Court;

- Updates the law of targeting.

The handbook will serve as the benchmark for the law of naval warfare and maritime security and be a vital resource for commanders, practitioners and academics.

The handbook can be downloaded and viewed at

For more information, visit, or

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October 25, 2012
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