Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I'm no lawyer, but...The 1936 Montreux Convention

Is General Nogovitsyn justified when he raises issues regarding NATO and the 1936 Montreux Convention?

No, not yet.

First some terminology. Part of the problem with the 1936 Convention is that it was written for a different time with different naval technology in mind. Annex Two Section B of the convention contains definitions of ship types, to wit:


(1) Capital ships are surface vessels of war belonging to one of the two following sub-categories:

(a) Surface vessels of war, other than aircraft-carriers, auxilliary vessels, or capital ships of sub-category (b) the standard displacement of which exceeds 10.000 tons (10.160 metric tons) or which carry a gun with a calibre exceeding 8 in. (203 mm.);

(b) Surface vessels of war, other than aircraft-carriers, the standard displacement of which does not exceed 8.000 tons (8.128 metric tons) and which carry a gun with a calibre exceeding 8 in. (203 mm.).

(2) Aircraft-Carriers are surface vessels of war, whatever their displacement, designed or adapted primarily for the purpose of carrying and opeI The wording of the present Annex is taken from the London Naval Treaty of March 25th, 1936. rating aircraft at sea. The fitting of a landing-on or flying-off deck on any vessel of war, provided such vessel has not been designed or adapted primarily for the purpose of carrying and operating aircraft at sea, shall not cause any vessel to fitted to be classified in the category of aircraft-carrier.

The category of aircraft-carrier is divided into two sub-categories as follows:

(a) Vessels fitted with a flight deck, from which aircraft can take off, or on which aircraft can land from the air;

(b) Vessels not fitted with a flight deck as described in (a) above.

(3) Light Surface Vessels are surface vessels of war other than aircraft-carriers, minor war vessels of auxiliary vessels,~the standard displacement of which exceeds 100 ton (102 metric tons) and does not exceed 10.000 tons (10.160 metric tons), and which do not carry a gun with a calibre exceeding 8 in. (103 mm.).

The category of light surface vessels is divided into three subcategories as follows:

(a) Vessels which carry a gun with a calibre exceeding 6.1 in. (155 mm.);

(b) Vessels which do not carry a gun with a calibre exceeding
6.1 in. (155 mm.) and the standard displacement of which exceeds
3.000 tons (3.048 metric tons);

(c) Vessels which do not carry a gun with a calibre exceeding
6.1 in. (155 mm.) and the standard displacement of which does not exceed 3.000 (3.048 metric tons).

(4) Submarines are all vessels designed to operate below the surface of the sea.

(5) Minor War Vessels are surface vessels of war, other than auxiliary vessels, the standard displacement of which exceeds 100 tons (102 metric tons) and does not exceed 2.000 tons (2.032 metric tons), provided they have none of the following characteristics:

(a) Mount a gun with a calibre exceeding 6.1 in (155 mm.);

(b) Are designed or fitted to launch torpedoes;

(c) Are designed for a speed greater than twenty knots.

(6) Auxiliary Vessels are naval surface vessels the standard displacement of which exceeds 100 tons (102 metric tons), which are normally employed on fleet duties or as troop transports, or in some other way than as fighting ships, and which are not specifically built as fighting ships, provided they have none of the following characteristics:

(a) Mount a gun with a calibre exceeding 6.1 in (155 mm.);

(b) Mount more than eight guns with a calibre exceeding 3 in (76 mm.);

(c) Are designed or fitted to launch torpedoes;

(d) Are designed for protection by armour plate:

(e) Are designed for a speed greater than twenty-eight knots;

(f) Are designed or adapted primarily for operating aircraft at sea;

(g) Mount more than two aircraft-lauching apparatus.

In this context, lets examine what is obviously by far the most powerful vessel in the Black Sea, the USS McFaul (DDG-74).

She does not carry a gun exceeding 8 inches, so by this definition she is not a capital ship. She has "not been designed or adapted primarily for the purpose of carrying and operating aircraft at sea" so she is not an aircraft carrier. She is not a submarine. She is not a minor vessel of war, displacing more than 2000 tons as she does. By several definitions she is not an auxilliary vessel. That leaves the category of "light surface vessel". McFaul does not exceed 10,000 tons displacement or have a gun greater than 8 inches. In fact, McFaul fits into the category found in Paragraph 3(b) "Vessels which do not carry a gun with a calibre exceeding
6.1 in. (155 mm.) and the standard displacement of which exceeds
3.000 tons (3.048 metric tons)".

So, by the definition found in the Montreux Convention, McFaul is a "light surface vessel". What are the rules concerning transit of the straits by a "light surface vessel"?

Section II Article 13 states:

The transit of vessels of war through the Straits shall be preceded by a notification given to the Turkish Government through the diplomatic channel. Ihe normal p*iod of notice shall be eight days, but it is desirable that in the case at non-Black Sea Powers this period should be increased to fifteen days. The notification shall specify the destination, name, type and number of the vessels, as also the date of entry for the outward passage and, if necessary, for the return journey. Any change of date shall be subject to three days' notice.

Entry into the Straits for the outward passage shall take place within a period of five days form the date given in the original notification. After the expiry of this period, a new notification shall be given under the same conditions as for the original notification.

When effecting transit, the commander of the naval force shall without being under any obligation to stop, communicate to a signal station at the entrance to the Dardanelles or the Bosphorus the exact composition of the force under his orders.

So far so good. Nothing complicated there.

The provisions of Article 14 are a little trickier:

The maximum aggregate tonnage of all foreign naval forces which may be in course of transit through the Straits shall not exceed 15.000 tons, except in the cases provided for in Article 11 and in Annex Ill to the present Convention.

The forces specified in the preceding paragraph shall not, however, comprise more than nine vessels.

Vessels, whether belonging to Black Sea or non-Black Sea Powers, paying visits to a port in the Straits, in accordance with the provisions of Article 17, shall not be included in this tonnage.

Neither shall vessels of war which have suffered damage during their passage through the Straits be included in this tonnage; such vessels, while undergoing repair, shall be subject to any special provisions relating to security laid down by Turkey.

Article 11 concerns Black Sea powers and thus applies to Turkey herself and not the rest of the NATO vessels in the Black Sea. Tonnage rules shouldn't apply right now because NATO vessels are not physically passing through the Straits. They are already in the Black Sea. The total NATO force consisting of non-Black Sea power forces did not in anycase exceed nine vessels. Also, I am unclear as to whether the definition of a "power" is an individual state or members of an alliance, although I suspect a "power" is an individual state.

Finally, Article 18 enumerates how much tonnage non-Black Sea powers are allowed in the Black Sea at any one time:

(1) The aggregate tonnage which non-Black Sea Powers may have in that sea in time of peace shall be limited as follows:

(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) below, the aggregate tonnage of the said Powers shall not exceed 30.000 tons;

(b) If at any time the tonnage ot the strongest fleet in the Black Sea shall exceed by at least 10.000 tons the tonnage of the strongest fleet in that sea at the date of the signature of the present Convention, the aggregate tonnage of 30.000 tons mentioned in paragrahp (a) shall be increased by the same amount, up to a maximum of 45,000 tons. For this purpose, each Black Sea Power shall, in conformity with Annex IV to the present Convention, inform the Turkish Govrnment, on the 1 st January and the 1st July of each year, of the total tonnage of its fleet in the Black Sea; and the Turkish Government shall transmit this information to the other High Contracting Parties and to the Secretary-General of the League of Nations;

(c) The tonnage which any one non-Black Sea Power may have in the Black Sea shall be limited to two-thirds of the aggregate tonnage provided for in paragraphs (a) and (b) above;

(d) In the event, however, of one or more non-Black Sea Powers desiring to send naval forces into the Black Sea, for a humanitarian purpose, the said forces, which shall in no case exceed 8.000 tons altogether, shall be allowed to enter the Black Sea without having to give the notification provided for in Article 13 of the present Convention, provided an authorisation is obtained from the Turkish Government in the following circumstances: if the figure of the aggregate tonnage specified in paragraphs (a) and (b) above has not been reaached and will not be exceeded by the despatch of the forces which it is desired to send, the Turkish Government shall grant the said authorisation within the shortest possible time after receiving the request which has been addressed to it; if the said figure has already been reached or if the despatch of the forces which it is desired to send will cause it to be exceeded, the Turkish Go',ernment will immediately inform the other Black Sea Powers of the request for authorisation, and if the said Powers make no objection within twenty-four hours of having received this information, the Turkish Government shall, within forty-eight hours at the latest, inform the interested Powers of the reply which it has decided to make to their request.

Any further entry into the Black Sea of naval forces of non-Black Sea Powers shall only be effected within the available limits of the aggregate tonnage provided for in paragraphs (a) and (b) above.

(2) Vessels of war belonging to non-Black Sea Powers shall not remain in the Black Sea more than twenty-one days, whatever be the object of their presence there.

It is not clear to me if the humanitarian paragraph of the Montreux Convention has been invoked. Altogether, non-Black Sea powers can have no more than 45,000 tons of vessels in the Black Sea. Full displacement of the McFaul is appx. 9,000 tons, USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20) is appx. 18,000 tons, the USS Taylor (FFG-50) is 4,100 tons and the USCGC Dallas (WHEC-716) is appx. 3,250 tons. This would appear to break the provision contained in paragraph (c) above, limiting the aggregate tonnage of warships of any one power to 2/3rds of 45,000 tons, or 30,000 tons.

However, according to Article 9:

Naval auxiliary vessels specifically designed for the carriage of fuel, liquid or nonliquid, shall not be subject to the provisions of Article 13 regarding notification, nor shall they be counted for the purpose of calculating the tonnage which is subject to limitation under Articles 14 and 18, on condition that they shall pass through the Straits singly. They shall, however, continue to be on the same footing as vessels of war for the purpose of the remaining provisions governing transit.

And by the rules found in Annex II, Section B, Paragraph 6, the Mount Whitney is obviously an auxilliary, exempt from the tonnage rules, as are the hospital ships that the United States are contemplating sending to the Black Sea. Additionally, the Mount Whitney is by Annex II definitions NOT a "vessel of war" and thus exempt to Article 18, Paragraph 2 restrictions on length of stay in the Black Sea. So American forces are well below tonnage limits for non-Black Sea forces.

In fact, by my sea-lawyerly estimation, the only thing Nogovitsyn will have any standing to complain about is if any one of the American forces in the Black Sea overstays its 21 day welcome found in the last paragraph of Article 18, and we aren't quite at that point yet.



Anonymous said...

Great post! Question about Annex II, Section B, Paragraph 6 -- are you sure that the Mount Whitney is not disqualified from the exemption from tonnage rules by virtue of it being "designed for protection by armour plate"? I don't know anything about naval vessels but I presume that it is "armoured" in the sense of, it is built to withstand attack to some extent. Thanks again for your insight on this subject!

russiannavyblog said...

bakinets - like I said, I'm no lawyer. I'm just an old retired Petty Officer with a Russian dictionary and an internet connections.

I can only make assumptions based on what I read.

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