Maritime Space: Maritime Zones and Maritime Delimitation

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INTRODUCTION

1.     In 1994, more than ten years since the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982, the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea issued a study entitled The Law of the Sea: Practice of States at the time of entry into force of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.94.V.13).

2.     The study showed that even before the entry into force of the Convention, on 16 November 1994, the principles and rules embodied in the Convention have exerted considerable impact on the practice of States, regardless whether a State signed the Convention, ratified it or acceded to it. It presented main trends and highlights of the practice of States as well as the major global developments, which transcended State practice at the national or regional levels. The study was a complement to another series of Law of the Sea publications focusing on State practice, in particular on national legislation and delimitation agreements. Among those publications were the following: Baselines - National Legislation with Illustrative Maps (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.89.V.10); National Legislation on Territorial Sea, the Right of Innocent Passage and the Contiguous Zone (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.95.V.7); National Legislation on the Exclusive Economic Zone (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.93.V.10); National Legislation on the Continental Shelf (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.89.V.5); Multilateral Treaties - A Reference Guide to Multilateral Treaties and Other International Instruments Related to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Revised and updated as of 31 December 1996) (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.94.V.13); Practice of Archipelagic States (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.92.V.3); Maritime Boundary Agreements 1970/84 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.87.V.12); Maritime Boundary Agreements 1942/69 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.91.V.11); Maritime Boundary Agreements1985/91 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.92.V.2); and Current Developments in State Practice (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.87.V.3); Current Developments in State Practice No. II (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.89.V.7); Current Developments in State Practice No. III (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.92.V.13); and Current Developments in State Practice No. IV (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.95.V.10).

3.     The present Internet publication represents a continuous effort by the Division to provide the most up-to-date information on State practice. It is divided into four parts, covering respectively the African States, the Asian and South Pacific States, the European and North American States and the Latin American and Caribbean States. Each of those parts contains a brief overview of the most recent developments and links to available legislation that will be soon accompanied, to the extent possible, by illustrative maps. At a later stage, the legislation concerning baselines and maritime zones will be complemented with the bilateral (and, in some cases, trilateral) maritime boundary delimitation treaties that States have concluded.

4.     Regarding the national legislation, the purpose of this Internet publication is to set out the legislation that coastal States have adopted concerning their baselines and maritime zones on the basis, inter alia, of the 1982 Convention. The publication covers the legislation of both States Parties to the Convention and States which are not yet parties to it. The legislation of States Parties to the Convention is of particular interest inasmuch as such States in accordance with their treaty obligations must implement the Convention and apply its provisions by harmonizing their legislation or adopting legislation conforming to the Convention. However, the legislation of States which are not yet parties to the Convention is equally important since it allows to determine to which extent the rules contained in the Convention have been generally accepted by the international community as being rules of customary international law. Accordingly, assessing how non-party States incorporate the rules set forth in the Convention into their national legislation is essential for the coherent and systematic evaluation of the development of State practice.

5.    It is recalled that under the 1982 Convention coastal States possess or are permitted to establish various maritime zones, such as the territorial sea, the contiguous zone, the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf, and may establish straight baselines or, in the case of archipelagic States, archipelagic baselines, from which the breadth of these maritime zones is measured. Thus, coastal States exercise sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over substantial portions of the seas. The 1982 Convention fixed the limits of the territorial sea at up to 12 nautical miles, 24 nautical miles for the contiguous zone, and 200 nautical miles for the exclusive economic zone. The continental shelf extends to the outer edge of the continental margin, or to a distance of 200 nautical miles where the outer edge of the continental margin does not extend up to that distance. When the margin extends beyond 200 nautical miles, the outer limits of the continental shelf are determined by a complex formula contained in article 76 of the 1982 Convention. Under international law, the rights of a coastal State over the shelf do not depend on occupation, effective or notional, or on any express proclamation.

6.     It may be noted that the concept of the exclusive economic zone was introduced by the 1982 Convention. Under that concept, coastal States possess sovereign rights to explore and exploit all the resources of the sea-bed, the subsoil and of the water column out to a distance of 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the territorial sea is measured.

7.     The provisions of the 1982 Convention relating to maritime zones and to the possibility for archipelagic States to draw under certain conditions straight baselines have all enhanced the importance of baselines since it is from them that the outer limits of the territorial sea, the contiguous zone, the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf are measured.

8.    As regards the part of information which will be dealing with bilateral or multilateral maritime boundary delimitation treaties, in general the maritime zones subject to maritime boundary delimitation are the territorial sea, the contiguous zone, the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf. By showing the maritime boundary delimitation treaties that have been concluded between coastal States with adjacent or opposite coasts regarding their maritime zones, we are in a position to provide a more complete picture of the extent of sovereignty or jurisdiction of each coastal State. As we progress in the development of that part of this site, we will also endeavour to provide illustrative maps prepared by the Division.

9.    It should be noted that, as a general rule,  the Division endeavours to publish treaties dealing with maritime boundary delimitation soon after they become available. Frequently, the Division publishes those treaties even before their entry into force since such treaties are an important part of State practice and an overwhelming majority of them are applied provisionally by States pending their entry into force. The information regarding the status of treaties (e.g., their entry into force and registration ) usually appears in notes appended to the individual texts. Therefore, it should be understood that information posted on this web site does not necessarily imply that a treaty has been registered with the Secretariat under Article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations or that it has entered into force.

10.    The official texts of the maritime boundary delimitation treaties and subsequent actions in their authentic language(s), along with a translation into English and French, as appropriate, are contained in the United Nations Treaty Series, a United Nations publication. The on-line, subscription-based version of this publication is available at "United Nations Treaty Collection On-line". Only treaties which have entered into force and have been registered with the Secretariat of the United Nations under article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations are provided.


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The Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea of the Office of Legal Affairs of the United Nations makes every effort to provide the most up-to-date information available to it at this website.

However, it should be understood that information contained therein may not necessarily reflect all information made available to the Division, although it is revised and updated continuously. This material is for information purposes only, and the United Nations assumes no liability whatsoever with regard to the accuracy of the data. Regarding the content of any part of this collection, States and other users are invited to bring to the attention of the Division any omissions or new developments (DOALOS Email; fax:  (212) 963-5847).

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