Merchant shipping

A merchant ship is a privately owned ship used for the transport of goods and civilian persons. It must not carry out acts of hostility, and may not be attacked.
A merchant ship is, however, subject to visit, to search, and in case of capture to confiscation. If it is the property of the enemy State, it is treated to some extent as a warship and may accordingly be confiscated without formality of any kind.

See Naval Warfare;

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 BIBLIOGRAPHIC RESOURCES

JENKINS M., “Air Attacks on Neutral Shipping in the Persian Gulf: The Legality of the Iraqi Exclusion Zone and Iranian Reprisals”, in BostonCollegeInternational and Comparative Law Review, Vol. 8/2, 1985, pp. 517-549.
 
NAVIAS Martin S. & HOOTON E.R., Tanker Wars: The Assault on Merchant Shipping During the Iran-Iraq Conflict, 1980-88, London, Tauris Academic Studies, 1996, 244 pp.
 
WALKER George K., The Tanker War, 1980-88: Law and Policy, Newport, Naval War College, 2000, 627 pp.