French law has incorporated in its internal dispositions, the dispositions of international conventions relating to petroleum facilities and in particular, pipelines or port facilities, which also constitute public policy obligations in French law applicable to French companies.


  • International conventions of the Law of the Sea, ratified afterwards, are also applicable

First in time, the international convention relating to the protection of submarine cables, signed in Paris on March 14, 1884 and ratified in Paris on April 23, 1888, applies to all submarine cables that land on the territory of contracting parties. France is a contracting party and Application in domestic law is recognized.

The Geneva Convention on the Continental Shelf (Article 5) delimits a 500m safety distance around certain areas. This Convention entered into force in 1964 and was ratified by France in 1965.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 (Montego Bay), whose articles 21 and 60 on submarine cables incorporated the main rules for the protection of facilities contained in the 1884 Convention, are applicable under French Law.

The SOLAS Convention entered into force on 25 May 1980. It provides for the application of the ISM Code which applies to all marine activities and requires shipping companies to comply with nautical restrictions and mapped areas (Rules 27 and 34). This convention provides the obligation for mariners to respect maritime signaling. It applies accordingly to any cable ship, for its surveys prior to laying the cable and for laying the cable.

The decree of 22 June 1998 on the responsibilities of shipping companies incorporated the SOLAS convention, the provisions of which had already been ratified by France.

The convention establishing the International Maritime Organization, adopted in Geneva on March 6, 1948, came into force on March 17, 1958. It is also ratified by France. It also provides for the application of the ISM Code, and in particular the obligation of shipowners to have up-to-date cartographic documentation (see Article 11 of the ISM Code), as well as compliance with IMO requirements, and in particular those relating to sensitive and prohibited areas.


  • Provisions of public order

Although international conventions are addressed to the States Parties, the imperative rules of international public order impose obligations, sometimes even criminally sanctioned, on those involved in maritime trade.

The public policy provisions of French law governing the navigation and the contract for the construction and installation of cables are intended to apply, both because of their nationality and because of the flag of the vessel which installed the cable.

The operators of vessels carrying out the surveys and the cable ships flying the flag of Contracting States must respect them, as well as the maritime and port authorities concerned (see in this respect the report drawn up in 2005 by the Division for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea by the UN Office of Legal Affairs).

In addition, all applicable and enforceable State provisions for the exclusive economic zone or for the high seas are applicable to the territorial sea, being imperative obligations of international public order and in application of Article 21 of the Montego Bay Convention.

Accordingly, the principle of Article 55 of the Constitution, which imposes a higher authority on treaties or agreements which have been duly ratified or approved, than on domestic laws, also requires that rules ratified by countries be directly applicable by individuals, notwithstanding the laws of application.


  • The identification of existing cables is in particular an international public order obligation before the laying of communication cables, for the protection of existing installations

These rules of international navigation are binding as regards cable ships and the contractors of installation work, because of the risks related to the industrial activities which directly affect the safety of the navigation.

Recognition of the applicability of the principles of these international conventions by the CIPH’s recommendations, which are pre-established standards, is a duty that, in the event of non-performance, constitutes a fault, the source of liability in tort.

In the absence of a crossover agreement and any contractual agreement with the owner of existing cables, delictual liability is applicable, which often means a liability with no limit of liability.

From these different texts, it is clear that an obligation exists not to damage existing structures and in default, an obligation to repair, including payment of losses.