The belligerent states under the right of angry can requisition the neutral ships or goods which are within their territory but the exercise of this right is subject to certain limitations

‘The belligerent states under the right of angry can requisition the neutral ships or goods which are within their territory but the exercise of this right is subject to certain limitations.’-illustrate & explain


Prior to delving into this topic, it is essential to understand four key terms in the context of war: belligerent, right of Angry, requisition, and neutral state. In warfare, a belligerent state is one which is engaged in combat, war or “conflict”. This means that any country involved in war is considered a belligerent. On the contrary, a country not participating in the war nor aiding any belligerents is considered a neutral party. Requisition refers to formally demanding something from another party. The right of Angary deals with these three terms, and in times of war, gives a belligerent state the right to requisition, or formally demand the usage of ships or goods belonging to neutral states that are within the territorial jurisdiction of the belligerent state. This right is derived from the laws of war, and is deemed acceptable in times of war due to the necessities of extreme measures that may arise.

The basic concept of the right of Angary is nothing new; in fact, traces of it date back to “early Roman times”. However, the right was subject to much abuse, even as of the early 17th and 18th century, hence a modern revision was made, which included the obligation to make compensation for requisitioning the neutral ships or goods.[1] Even in the 19th and early 20th century, there were debates and confusions about whether the obligation to compensate should be abided by according to the right of Angary, or whether the right of Angary itself was a violation of neutrality. These situations will be addressed later on. A neutral ship is not forbidden from navigating the waters falling under belligerent jurisdiction, but if it does, then the belligerent state has the option of requisitioning the ship(s) by exercising the right of Angary. However, the belligerent may in no way exercise this right within a neutral territory. Neutral parties may also not exercise the right of Angary on one another; one such case arose where one neutral party had claimed the use of the right of Angary to seize ships of another neutral party. However, this action was ruled unlawful, as both parties were neutral and the right of Angary only gave authority to a belligerent state to requisition neutral ships or goods. The basic concept is that if a neutral ship, although it has full right to, is in an area under belligerent jurisdiction, the belligerent state has the right to, under absolute necessity, requisition the ship and/or goods, and destroy them if they feel it necessary to do so.


The first incidence of requisitioning of neutral ships by belligerents dates back to Antwerp in 1539 and 1587. As already mentioned earlier, the right was being abused by many parties, so the right was revised, and an obligation to pay adequate compensation was included. Taylor recognized the modern right of Angary, stating that it may be exercised by belligerents in time of war if they find neutral ship within their territory; however, he noted that indemnity, or appropriate compensation needed to be paid. This right was apparently referred to as Angaria, which has since come to be known as Angary. An event of Napoleon’s requisitioning neutral ships in order to carry his troops to Egypt is given, and it is mentioned that he had paid adequate compensation. Another similar situation has been put forth – during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, where Prussian troops had taken control of 16 British ships in order to barricade the Seine River to stop the French from entering via the river. During the Franco-German War, the Germans had formally sought the permission to sink six British coal ships in order to stop the French from entering and attacking. The Germans considered it a necessary action, and when the captains of the ships refused to give up the ships, the Germans fired and sunk them. The British government did not react sharply to this, but demanded adequate compensation. So the right of Angary was also exercised here (recall that under the right of Angary, belligerents are allowed to destroy neutral ships if necessary). To date, the most significant “use of the right of angary” was in World War I.


The exercise of the right of Angary is subject to mainly two conditions: (i) the right may be exercised under situations of dire need and absolute necessity, and (ii) that full compensation needs to be paid to the owner(s) in case the right is exercised.

As Cheng has noted, the right of Angary must be used only in “cases of serious necessity”, and that the owner(s) must be compensated accordingly. Another noted writer from the 17th century also admitted the necessity for requisition of neutral goods only if the belligerent state absolutely requires it, but believed that they could not do it if the other (neutral) state had an equal need for that purpose. In fact, most well-known writers have nodded in favour of allowing the right of Angary in extreme cases during war when national security is concerned, although they have admitted that they view this right as “imperfect”. In short, proper “justification”[2] is necessary to exercise the right, and full indemnity needs to be paid. Portugal has also expressed his belief that the right can be used “only in case of urgent military necessity”, and that compensation must be paid in full. Harley has mentioned an event where the British government had requisitioned some Dutch ships lying in British territorial waters, and the Dutch government had written to the British government lodging a complaint since it believed the requisitioning was not for necessary military purpose. The British government had responded by saying that the materials being carried by the ships were of vital military concern to it, so it claimed that the requisition had been justified. In another instance, several Dutch ships were requisitioned by the United States – there was difficulty using the right of Angary, so an appeal was lodged with the then-US President, who gave the right to use the Dutch ships for their military purposes. However the then US President declared that the Dutch ships that they had requisitioned, were only for a “temporary” period, and that the ships would be duly returned; and in case some damage was inflicted upon the ship(s), the owner would be given the liberty to claim a replaced ship, or payment for the lost ship/damages. A further instance of German ships requisitioned by Portuguese is also given.

There has been confusion in several instances, over whether the right to compensate the owner of the neutral property should be made obligatory. One of the earliest documentations of this confusion carries back to the times of early British Rule, during the times of The Crown. It was once being debated whether once requisitioned, indemnity needed to be paid to the neutral owner. It was even agreed that the laws regarding the right of Angary do indeed comply or adhere strongly with the municipal laws, and therefore the right to compensate the neutral owner could be deemed as per law. However, it was maintained at one point that whatever compensation was due to the neutral party was not bound by law to be paid to the owner of the goods that were requisitioned, but to “the owner’s State of nationality”. Despite some confusion regarding the incorporation of compensation into the municipality law, it was decided that compensation was an associated obligation whenever property is taken; hence compensation of requisitioned neutral goods was also as per law.

Oppenheim and Roxburgh have said that as opposed to the previous or old right of Angary, the modern one does not give belligerents the power to elicit services from neutral persons by force, but the modern one only extends their right to seize neutral goods/vessels in their jurisdiction or within an enemy territory. The Crown itself has in the past, even after a ruling by the prize court that neutral ships or goods could not be requisitioned, passed an Order awarding itself the power to requisition neutral ships or goods within its territories. Oppenheim and Roxburgh have further contended that damages arising from exercising this right must always be compensated.[4] It has also been explicitly stated here, that the right of Angary itself is derived from the law of war, not from the law of neutrality – it is merely the right of belligerent states to make use of neutral ships in their territory or in certain cases, on enemy territory. But the associated obligation to compensate is derived from the law of neutrality, not from the law of war.

Contrary to the acceptance of the right of Angary by majority of writers, there are those, although few in number, who are opposed to the right. The main belief held by these writers is that despite the necessity to exercise the right, it is to some degree, in violation of neutrality; however they have also accepted to some extent, that it may be deemed appropriate in such cases, if and only if full indemnity was paid to the corresponding owner(s).


We have seen above, from the works of multiple authors, that majority of them have nodded in agreement to the right of Angary given its strict stipulations. However, there is one particular instance when the right of Angary may not be exercised at all – that is when the right is specifically denied in treaties between countries. It is important to note here, however, that, the mere exclusion of the right of Angary in a treaty does not mean that the right cannot be exercised by either party of the treaty against each other; rather, if the right is specifically denied, or if it is agreed that the parties to the treaty are against the usage of the right of Angary, then only may there be a bar to using it. Over time, many treaties have been formed, some of which were against the right of Angary since the nations in the treaty viewed it as a violation of neutrality.[5] The United States, for instance, after its independence, did not include the right of Angary in its treaties with several countries, though it did mention it in its treaty with Peru (in 1870). A few other treaties which denied the right of Angary are: “the United States-Prussian Treaty of 1785, Article 16; the French-Russian Treaty of 1787, Article 24; and the United States-Spanish Treaty of 1796, Article 7”. Furthermore, treaties of the 19th and 20th centuries which deny the right of Angary are: “the Danish-Prussian Treaty of June 17, 1818, and two Italian treaties with San Domingo and Nicaragua, October 18, 1886, and June 25, 1906”, respectively. Apart from these three, the rest of the treaties formed after the 18th century have allowed the right of Angary to be used, given that compensation is paid to the affected neutral owner in full.

An issue was once raised that in the absence of treaties between parties, neutral ships or goods could be requisitioned without paying due compensation. However, this proposition had serious flaws, and it was decided that the right of Angary would hold even if there were no treaties regarding it, between nations – that is, upon requisition, full indemnity would have to be paid, no matter what.


We have personally felt that the right of Angary does in fact seem like an abrasive measure in times of war, and extremely unfair for neutral parties, and somewhat a major violation of the right and intention of those who wish to remain neutral and have nothing to do with war. However, under the modern definition of this right, given the consideration that the neutral ships need to be within territorial jurisdiction of belligerent states and that complete compensation will be paid upon requisition, we have also felt that the exercise of this right may become an absolute necessity in certain situations, some of which have been put forth in this paper.


The right of Angary, although undoubtedly not completely free from violation of neutrality, has evolved and become more favourable than it had been since the time it first came into existence. Despite the condition of full compensation, several writers have remained wholly or partially against its use. Nevertheless, given the many historical events put forth in this paper, it would be unwise to not recognize the significance of the right of Angary in some of the wars which have shaped the world.


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[1] Harley, J. U. (1919). The Law of Angary, p. 268.

[2]United Nations. (1932). The “Kronprins Gustaf Adolf”, p.1257.

[3] Hurley, E. N. (1927). The bridge to France, p.53.

[4]Oppenheim, L. F. (2012). International law: A treatise, Volume II, p.447.

[5] Verzijl, J. H. W. (1978). International law in historical perspective: The laws of war, Volume 9, Part 9, p.43.