in international law, man-made waterways that connect various seas and are used for international navigation. By shortening the seaways of the world, international canals play a major role in maritime navigation and world trade. They also are of great strategic military significance (for example, the Kiel Canal, the Suez Canal, and the Panama Canal). From the legal standpoint, international canals must be distinguished from straits, which are natural seaways, and from national (inland) canals, which are not used for international shipping and are under the exclusive sovereignty of the given state.
International canals, as man-made structures located in the territory of a state, are an integral part of its territory and are subject to its jurisdiction, taking international legal regulations into account. International canals may be leased to another state.
The navigational conditions for passage through international canals are regulated by international conventions. These conditions are based on the principle of free passage for the vessels of all countries through the international canal, respect by the states using the canals for the sovereign rights of the state through whose territory the canal passes, the removal of the canal from the sphere of military operations in the event of an armed conflict, and the obligation to pay the stipulated fees for passage.