Political Geography of the Oceans

Discipline: Semester at Sea Seminars
Instructor: Smith
Credits: 3

Field Class: Panama 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. Regional issues of the Caspian Sea, Arctic Ocean, Indian Ocean (piracy), and the Caribbean Sea will be addressed. Marine scientific research and the environment will be analyzed in light of the need to develop the ocean’s resources. Attention will be given to this semester’s trip itinerary and topics will focus on the countries and region visited. In particular, the Panama Canal-its construction and impact on the world’s economic and political geography-will be highlighted as world attention is being given to possible new transit routes in the Arctic Ocean.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 a “hands on” opportunity to put into action several class topics, including baselines and 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.

Field Class

Country: Panama

The day will consist of four components: visits to the Panama Canal Museum, the Miraflores Visitor Center, a walk thru the historic section of Panama City and lunch in a quaint restaurant in the historic section. Attention will be given to (1) the building of the canal and its impact on worldwide ocean commerce, (2) U.S.- Panama relations at the time of its building and then later in the 20th century, 3) what the future holds with the Canal's expansion. Once back at the ship our class will meet in a designated classroom to review what we have learned during the day.