Maritime Space: Maritime Zones and Maritime Delimitation

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Frequently asked questions

Q1:    Where do I find the most up-to-date information relating to oceans and the law of the sea?

A1:    The Secretary-General of the United Nations issues annually a comprehensive report on oceans and the law of the sea. In addition to these annual reports, the Secretary-General has prepared separate reports dealing with issues relating to fisheries and the conservation and management of living marine resources. All reports, starting from 1993, could be found at the Oceans and Law of the Sea web site.

        The Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs, publishes also the Law of the Sea Bulletin. This sales publication is available on a subscription basis. 

Q2:    How can I subscribe to the Law of the Sea Bulletin?

A2:    For a subscription, please contact the United Nations Publications office:

United Nations Sales Publications, Room DC2-0853, Department I-002 United Nations New York, NY 10017, USA; Telephone (212) 963-8302; Fax (212) 963-3489; e-mail:; Toll free 1-800-253-9646 (North America only).

Q3:    Where do I find and how can I purchase the Law of the Sea publications?

A3:    For the most recent publications and current prices, please consult the UN Publications Catalogue (English) which is continuously updated. For other languages and to place an order, please refer to UN Publications Home Page, which contains French and Spanish catalogues and appropriate ordering instructions.

Q4:    Which States are bound by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea?

A4:    States Parties to the Convention - all States which have expressed their final consent to be bound by means of depositing an instrument of ratification or accession with the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Also are considered States Parties to the Convention newly independent States, which, by a notification of succession (on the condition that the Convention had been in force for their predecessor States) established their status as parties to it.

        The Convention also applies mutatis mutandis to the entities referred to in its article 305, paragraph 1(b), (c), (d), (e) and (f), which become Parties to this Convention in accordance with the conditions relevant to each. To that extent "States Parties" refers to those entities. International organizations which fall under under the provision of article 305, paragraph 1(f), deposit with the Secretary-General an instrument of formal confirmation. One such international organization, namely the European Community, is already a Party to the Convention.

Q5:    Is there any map showing all maritime zones and limits worldwide?

A5:    As a matter of fact, no. Although there have been some attempts to illustrate maritime claims worldwide, it is not possible to show an accurate illustration of the extent of all maritime zones and location of maritime boundary delimitation lines.

        Firstly, since the outer limits of maritime zones, such as the territorial sea, the contiguous zone, the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf  are measured from baselines, including straight baselines or archipelagic baselines, it is essential to have accurate baseline data. Such data may not be available for all coastal States.

        Secondly, complete and up-to-date information regarding national claims to maritime jurisdiction is needed. We hope that, through the current web site, we can progress in our endeavour to achieve such goal.

        Thirdly, regarding delimitation of maritime boundaries between States with adjacent or opposite coasts,  it has to be noted that while an important number of maritime boundary delimitation agreements have already been concluded providing a wealth of State practice, it is estimated that a very large number of maritime boundary delimitations around the world still await some form of resolution by negotiations or other peaceful means.

        Last, but not least, there are a number of unresolved territorial and sovereignty disputes (especially with respect to islands). Unless and until the States concerned settle these disputes, it will not be possible to determine the maritime boundaries and the extent of the claims for the subregion concerned.

Q6:    Where do I find the full text of the the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea?

A6:    The full text of the Convention is available on our Oceans and Law of the Sea web site.

Q7:    What regime applies to the cables and pipelines?

A7:    Pursuant to article 58, paragraph 1, of the Convention, in the exclusive economic zone, all States, whether coastal or land-locked, enjoy, subject to the relevant provisions of the Convention, the freedoms referred to in article 87 of navigation and overflight and of the laying of submarine cables and pipelines, and other internationally lawful uses of the sea related to these freedoms, such as those associated with the operation of ships, aircraft and submarine cables and pipelines, and compatible with the other provisions of this Convention.

        In another words, beyond the outer limits of the 12 nm territorial sea, the coastal State may not (and should not) impede the laying or maintenance of cables, even though the delineation of the course for the laying of such pipelines on the continental shelf is subject to its consent. The coastal State has jurisdiction only over cables constructed or used in connection with the exploration of its continental shelf or exploitation of its resources or the operations of artificial islands, installations and structures under its jurisdiction. When laying submarine cables or pipelines, due regard should be paid to cables or pipelines already in position. In particular, possibilities of repairing existing cables or pipelines shall not be prejudiced.

        Owners and operators of submarine cables also collaborate through various organizations in order to agree, among others, on certain issues, such as practical arrangements for the laying and reparation of submarine cables. One of these organizations is the International Cables Protection Committee (ICPC) (

Q8:    Where do I find legislation relating to fisheries?

A8:    Although some acts on maritime zones contain provisions relating to fisheries, they usually do not serve the purpose of regulating all aspects of conservation and management of marine living resources. An extensive collection of fishery legislation is available at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (

Q9:    Where do I find information concerning sea lanes and traffic separation schemes?

A9:    The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is the United Nations agency competent in these matters ( IMO provides for the adoption of ships routeing systems under SOLAS regulation V/8 and the adoption or amendment of traffic separation schemes (TSS) in rules 1(d) and 10 of Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 (COLREG). Guidelines and criteria developed by IMO for the adoption of routeing measures are contained in the IMO General Provisions on Ship's Routeing (IMO Assembly resolution A.572 (14), as amended). These measures include traffic separation schemes (TSS), two-way routes , recommended tracks, areas to be avoided, inshore traffic zones, roundabouts, precautionary areas and deep-water routes. Information on recent new and amended traffic separation schemes and associated routeing measures is contained in Annex 18 to the report of the Maritime Safety Committee on its 73rd. session (MSC 73/21/Add.3).

Q10:    How do I learn about international protests with regard to a particular national legislation act?

A10:    Communications from States relating to maritime zones are regularly published in the Law of the Sea Bulletin. Information regarding such communications is also contained in the reports of the Secretary-General on oceans and the law of the sea.

Q11:    What regime applies beyond the limits of national jurisdiction?

A11:    The regime of high seas, as established by Part VII of the Convention, applies to all parts of the sea that are not included in the exclusive economic zone, in the territorial sea or in the internal waters of a State, or in the archipelagic waters of an archipelagic State. The seabed and ocean floor and subsoil thereof, beyond the limits of national jurisdiction (i.e. beyond the outer limits of the continental shelf of coastal States) are defined as international seabed Area. The Area and its resources are the common heritage of mankind. Activities in the Area shall be governed by the provisions of Part XI of the Convention and of the 1994 Agreement relating to the implementation of Part XI of the Convention.

Q12:    Do you plan to post information on national legislation and delimitation treaties in other languages?

A12:    After we complete the English part of the project, posting of national legislation and delimitation treaties in French, the second working language of the United Nations, will be considered.

Q13:    May I have the original texts of the national legislation acts?

A13:    On an ad hoc basis, upon request in writing, and subject to availability, we may provide  a copy of the original text.

Additional information: ►The repertory of the Law of the Sea Bulletins |►Declarations and statements |►FAO Fishlex |►ITLOS |►ICJ |►PCA - Cases |

>>>Comments and suggestions? Mail to : DOALOS | >>> Oceans and Law of the Sea | >>> Search Oceans and Law of the Sea web site | >>>United Nations web site

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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).

The designations employed and the presentation of the material on this site do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Secretariat of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. Publication on this site of information concerning developments relating to the law of the sea emanating from actions and decisions taken by States does not imply recognition by the United Nations of the validity of the actions and decisions in question.

Prepared by the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs, United Nations.

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