TERRITORIAL SEA AND CONTIGUOUS ZONE
SECTION 1. GENERAL PROVISIONS
Legal status of the territorial sea, of the air space
over the territorial sea and of its bed and subsoil
1. The sovereignty of a coastal State extends, beyond its land territory
and internal waters and, in the case of an archipelagic State, its
archipelagic waters, to an adjacent belt of sea, described as the
2. This sovereignty extends to the air space over the territorial sea as
well as to Its bed and subsoil.
3. The sovereignty over the territorial sea is exercised subject to this
Convention and to other rules of international law.
SECTION 2. LIMITS OF THE TERRITORIAL SEA
Every State has the right to establish the breadth of its territorial sea
up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles, measured from baselines
determined in accordance with this Convention.
Breadth of the territorial sea
The outer limit of the territorial sea is the line every point of which is
at a distance from the nearest point of the baseline equal to the breadth
of the territorial sea.
Except where otherwise provided in this Convention, the normal baseline for
measuring the breadth of the territorial sea is the low-water line along
the coast as marked on large-scale charts officially recognized by the
In the case of islands situated on atolls or of islands having fringing
reefs, the baseline for measuring the breadth of the territorial sea is the
seaward low-water line of the reef, as shown by the appropriate symbol on
charts officially recognized by the coastal State.
Outer limit of the territorial sea
1. In localities where the coastline is deeply indented and cut into, or if
there is a fringe of islands along the coast in its immediate vicinity, the
method of straight baselines joining appropriate points may be employed in
drawing the baseline from which the breadth of the territorial sea is
2. Where because of the presence of a delta and other natural conditions
the coastline is highly unstable, the appropriate points may be selected
along the furthest seaward extent of the low-water line and,
notwithstanding subsequent regression of the low-water line, the straight
baselines shall remain effective until changed by the coastal State in
accordance with this Convention.
3. The drawing of straight baselines must not depart to any appreciable
extent from the general direction of the coast, and the sea areas lying
within the lines must be sufficiently closely linked to the land domain to
be subject to the regime of internal waters.
4. Straight baselines shall not be drawn to and from low-tide elevations,
unless lighthouses or similar installations which are permanently above sea
level have been built on them or except in instances where the drawing of
baselines to and from such elevations has received general international
5. Where the method of straight baselines is applicable under paragraph 1,
account may be taken, in determining particular baselines, of economic
interests peculiar to the region concerned, the reality and the importance
of which are clearly evidenced by long usage.
6. The system of straight baselines may not be applied by a State in such a
manner as to cut off the territorial sea of another State from the high
seas or an exclusive economic zone.
1. Except as provided in Part IV, waters on the landward side of the
baseline of the territorial sea form part of the internal waters of the
2. Where the establishment of a straight baseline in accordance with the
method set forth in article 7 has the effect of enclosing as internal
waters areas which had not previously been considered as such, a right of
innocent passage as provided in this Convention shall exist in those
If a river flows directly into the sea, the baseline shall be a straight
line across the mouth of the river between points on the low-water line of
1. This article relates only to bays the coasts of which belong to a single
2. For the purposes of this Convention, a bay is a well-marked indentation
whose penetration is in such proportion to the width of its mouth as to
contain land-locked waters and constitute more than a mere curvature of the
coast. An indentation shall not, however, be regarded as a bay unless its
area is as large as, or larger than, that of the semi-circle whose diameter
is a line drawn across the mouth of that indentation.
3. For the purpose of measurement, the area of an indentation is that lying
between the low-water mark around the shore of the indentation and a line
joining the low-water mark of its natural entrance points. Where, because
of the presence of islands, an indentation has more than one mouth, the
semicircle shall be drawn on a line as long as the sum total of the lengths
of the lines across the different mouths. Islands within an indentation
shall be included as if they were part of the water area of the
4. If the distance between the low-water marks of the natural entrance
points of a bay does not exceed 24 nautical miles, a closing line may be
drawn between these two low-water marks, and the waters enclosed thereby
shall be considered as internal waters.
5. Where the distance between the low-water marks of the natural entrance
points of a bay exceeds 24 nautical miles, a straight baseline of 24
nautical miles shall be drawn within the bay in such a manner as to enclose
the maximum area of water that is possible with a line of that length.
6. The foregoing provisions do not apply to so-called "historic" bays, or
in any case where the system of straight baselines provided for in article
7 is applied.
For the purpose of delimiting the territorial sea, the outermost permanent
harbour works which form an integral part of the harbour system are
regarded as forming part of the coast. Off-shore installations and
artificial islands shall not be considered as permanent harbour works.
Roadsteads which are normally used for the loading, unloading and anchoring
of ships, and which would otherwise be situated wholly or partly outside
the outer limit of the territorial sea, are included in the territorial
1. A low-tide elevation is a naturally formed area of land which is
surrounded by and above water at low tide but submerged at high tide. Where
a low-tide elevation is situated wholly or partly at a distance not
exceeding the breadth of the territorial sea from the mainland or an
island, the low-water line on that elevation may be used as the baseline
for measuring the breadth of the territorial sea.
2. Where a low-tide elevation is wholly situated at a distance exceeding
the breadth of the territorial sea from the mainland or an island, it has
no territorial sea of its own.
The coastal State may determine baselines in turn by any of the methods
provided for in the foregoing articles to suit different conditions.
Combination of methods for determining baselines
Where the coasts of two States are opposite or adjacent to each other,
neither of the two States is entitled, failing agreement between them to
the contrary, to extend its territorial sea beyond the median line every
point of which is equidistant from the nearest points on the baselines from
which the breadth of the territorial seas of each of the two States is
measured. The above provision does not apply, however, where it is
necessary by reason of historic title or other special circumstances to
delimit the territorial seas of the two States in a way which is at
Delimitation of the territorial sea
between States with opposite or adjacent coasts
1. The baselines for measuring the breadth of the territorial sea
determined in accordance with articles 7, 9 and 10, or the limits derived
therefrom, and the lines of delimitation drawn in accordance with articles
12 and 15 shall be shown on charts of a scale or scales adequate for
ascertaining their position. Alternatively, a list of geographical
co-ordinates of points, specifying the geodetic datum, may be substituted.
Charts and lists of geographical co-ordinates
2. The coastal State shall give due publicity to such charts or lists of
geographical co-ordinates and shall deposit a copy of each such chart or
list with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Convention on the Law of the Sea: Index