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Seizure of Foreign Ships on the High Seas Pursuant to Special Arrangements


The United States has authority under international law to enter into agreements to stop, search, and detain foreign vessels on the high seas that are suspected of trafficking in illicit drugs.

The United States may limit its jurisdiction over a foreign flag vessel seized on the high seas, and the vessel may be returned to the flag state at its request without compliance with domestic forfeiture law.

Where the United States is authorized under international law to exercise its police powers to detain ships on behalf of their flag state, such detention does not constitute a taking under the Fifth Amendment.  However, wh ere a ship is seized concurrently on behalf of the United States for violation of U.S. customs laws, a claimant is entitled to a prompt adjudication of his rights in the seized property.

Updated July 9, 2014