Political Geography of the Oceans

Discipline: Semester at Sea Seminars
Instructor: Smith
Credits: 3
Day: C
Start: 1520
End: 1635
Field Work: Day 1 - Dublin - Thursday, 10 July | Ireland
Prerequisites: None Download Syllabus

This course examines the governance of the world’s oceans.  National interests over the control of ocean space differ from country to country and in some situations these differences have led to conflict.  The lectures focus on means by which countries have claimed sovereignty and exclusive jurisdiction off their coasts.  The spatial impact these actions have on other maritime users will be analyzed with an emphasis on U.S. ocean policy and practice.  The division of ocean space is analyzed from both a geographical and functional perspective.  Geographically, each major type of maritime zone is discussed:  baselines (which distinguish internal waters from the territorial sea), the territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone, continental shelf, and high seas.  Functionally, primary ocean uses are examined, including fisheries, oil and gas development, deep seabed mining, navigation (commercial and military), and over flight. Special topics such marine scientific research, the Arctic and Antarctic regions, and marine environmental issues are addressed.  Attention will be given to this semester’s trip itinerary when discussing the course topics.


The understanding and use of nautical charts as they pertain to national maritime claims and boundaries will be examined.  And, it will be shown why in this day of satellite imagery and computers that charts may not always give the best answers.  During the course, the students will have “hands on” opportunities to put into action several class topics, including maritime boundaries.  Late in the course, following the lectures on maritime zones and the principles of maritime boundaries, the class will be divided into negotiating teams.  A scenario will be given to both sides, defining their country’s interests, where the offshore resources are located, and other pertinent facts.  After caucusing as a team, and developing their maritime boundary negotiating strategy, the teams will engage in “negotiating” a boundary with its neighbor bringing to the table knowledge learned in this course.


Grades will be based on tests (map quiz, mid-term and final exam), briefing memoranda (based on readings, field lab, and boundary negotiations), and class participation.

Field Work

Country: Ireland
Day: 1 - Dublin - Thursday, 10 July

The day will be spent first learning how the port of Dublin is managed and operated and how Dublin/ Ireland compete in the world’s shipping industry.  The focus will be on the operations in general—the intermodal interface between ships and trucks, and on the use of containers.  And, finally port security will be addressed.  Following the briefing and tour of the port the class will continue to a pub/restaurant for a traditional Irish lunch.  Then on to the National Maritime Museum in Dun Laoghaire which is housed in a former Mariner’s church.  Here the class will be guided by a docent to review the rich Irish maritime history. Academic Objectives: 1.  To appreciate the operations of a major international port from managing arrivals and departures of products into and out of the port. 2.  To understand what makes Dublin competitive in the international shipping industry and what issues, including security port managers face. 3.  To view Ireland's maritime heritage at the National Maritime Museum.