Large swaths of land have been recovered from the sea throughout history. Modern technology has allowed for bigger projects even into open sea. For example, Palm Jumeirah sticks 5 km into the sea, and Palm Deira (which is under construction) will stick out 14 km into the Persian Gulf.

I don't think these affect Dubai's territorial waters, but one can easily imagine similar projects in other countries which would have an effect on them. Singapore, for example, lies very close to both Indonesian and Malaysian territories and is doing a lot of land reclamation.

With technological advances and increasing populations, need for land may become larger, and bigger projects may be undertaken in the future. It is easy to see how such projects could cause international tensions.

So what happens to the territorial waters (or other relevant borders), when a country reclaims sea land that protrudes out of its coast line? Are there any rules in international law that deal with this kind of situation?

2 Answers 2


After a little more digging, it seems like I've found the answer to my own question, in Article 56 and 60 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea:

Article 56:

  1. In the exclusive economic zone, the coastal State has:


(b) jurisdiction as provided for in the relevant provisions of this Convention with regard to: (i) the establishment and use of artificial islands, installations and structures;


Article 60:


  1. Artificial islands, installations and structures do not possess the status of islands. They have no territorial sea of their own, and their presence does not affect the delimitation of the territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone or the continental shelf.
  • What would happen if rising sea levels cause a natural island, which extends the territorial waters of the mainland, to be permanently submerged? Commented Apr 13, 2022 at 12:17
  • Reclaimed land however is not an artificial structure under that convention
    – Trish
    Commented Apr 13, 2022 at 21:40
  • @WeatherVane, interesting question. Not sure if they say anything about that.
    – Lu Kas
    Commented Apr 14, 2022 at 8:11
  • @Trish Do you mean reclaimed land is not considered an artificial island? I guess you can indeed argue reclaimed land attached to the mainland is not an island. Interesting ... But would it not be considered the same or analogous? Did you find anything in the rules that could be used to argue the opposite?
    – Lu Kas
    Commented Apr 14, 2022 at 8:15
  • 1
    @Trish mother nature can decide to take any of it back whenever she feels like it though. The dutch politely request some land from a fickle mother nature and for now she agrees. Take is a bit strong.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Apr 18, 2022 at 11:31

Countries sovereign rights include a certain amount of sea area. South Africa has included in its land area the 600 km of coastal area all along its coast line.

Incursion into this sea straight could in theory be considered acts of aggression. Basically all of our Navy exist to protect the fishing rights along our coast.

There is nothing precluding sea areas from belonging to a country. If this sea land was to be made habital then the settlement would be a personal matter for the country who claims it for its own.

This can be a real diplomatic issue though because sea areas like the South China sea is a hotbed issue that has the possibility to create massive upheaval

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