1. The continental shelf of a coastal State comprises the sea-bed and
subsoil of the submarine areas that extend beyond its territorial sea
throughout the natural prolongation of its land territory to the outer edge
of the continental margin, or to a distance of 200 nautical miles from the
baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured where
the outer edge of the continental margin does not extend up to that
Definition of the continental shelf
2. The continental shelf of a coastal State shall not extend beyond the
limits provided for in paragraphs 4 to 6.
3. The continental margin comprises the submerged prolongation of the land
mass of the coastal State, and consists of the sea-bed and subsoil of the
shelf the slope and the rise. It does not include the deep ocean floor with
its oceanic ridges or the subsoil thereof.
5. The fixed points comprising the line of the outer limits of the
continental shelf on the sea-bed, drawn in accordance with paragraph 4
(a)(i) and (ii), either shall not exceed 350 nautical miles from the
baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured or
shall not exceed 100 nautical miles from the 2,500 metre isobath, which is
a line connecting the depth of 2,500 metres.
- For the purposes of this Convention, the coastal State shall
establish the outer edge of the continental margin wherever the
margin extends beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from
which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured, by either:
- a line delineated in accordance with paragraph 7 by reference to
the outermost fixed points at each of which the thickness of
sedimentary rocks is at least 1 per cent of the shortest distance
from such point to the foot of the continental slope; or
- a line delineated in accordance with paragraph 7 by reference to
fixed points not more than 60 nautical miles from the foot of the
- In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the foot of the
continental slope shall be determined as the point of maximum change
in the gradient at its base.
6. Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph 5, on submarine ridges, the
outer limit of the continental shelf shall not exceed 350 nautical miles
from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is
measured. This paragraph does not apply to submarine elevations that are
natural components of the continental margin, such as its plateaux, rises,
caps, banks and spurs.
7. The coastal State shall delineate the outer limits of its continental
shelf, where that shelf extends beyond 200 nautical miles from the
baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured, by
straight lines not exceeding 60 nautical miles in length, connecting fixed
points, defined by coordinates of latitude and longitude.
8. Information on the limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical
miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is
measured shall be submitted by the coastal State to the Commission on the
Limits of the Continental Shelf set up under Annex II on the basis of
equitable geographical representation. The Commission shall make
recommendations to coastal States on matters related to the establishment
of the outer limits of their continental shelf. The limits of the shelf
established by a coastal State on the basis of these recommendations shall
be final and binding.
9. The coastal State shall deposit with the Secretary-General of the United
Nations charts and relevant information, including geodetic data,
permanently describing the outer limits of its continental shelf. The
Secretary-General shall give due publicity thereto.
10. The provisions of this article are without prejudice to the question of
delimitation of the continental shelf between States with opposite or
1. The coastal State exercises over the continental shelf sovereign rights
for the purpose of exploring it and exploiting its natural resources.
Rights of the coastal State over the continental shelf
2. The rights referred to in paragraph 1 are exclusive in the sense that if
the coastal State does not explore the continental shelf or exploit its
natural resources, no one may undertake these activities without the
express consent of the coastal State.
3. The rights of the coastal State over the continental shelf do not depend
on occupation, effective or notional, or on any express proclamation.
4. The natural resources referred to in this Part consist of the mineral
and other non-living resources of the sea-bed and subsoil together with
living organisms belonging to sedentary species, that is to say, organisms
which, at the harvestable stage, either are immobile on or under the
sea-bed or are unable to move except in constant physical contact with the
sea-bed or the subsoil.
1. The rights of the coastal State over the continental shelf do not affect
the legal status of the superjacent waters or of the air space above those
Legal status of the superjacent waters and air space and the
rights and freedoms of other States
2. The exercise of the rights of the coastal State over the continental
shelf must not infringe or result in any unjustifiable interference with
navigation and other rights and freedoms of other States as provided for in
1. All States are entitled to lay submarine cables and pipelines on the
continental shelf, in accordance with the provisions of this article.
Submarine cables and pipelines on the continental shelf
2. Subject to its right to take reasonable measures for the exploration of
the continental shelf, the exploitation of its natural resources and the
prevention, reduction and control of pollution from pipelines, the coastal
State may not impede the laying or maintenance of such cables or pipelines.
3. The delineation of the course for the laying of such pipelines on the
continental shelf is subject to the consent of the coastal State.
4. Nothing in this Part affects the right of the coastal State to establish
conditions for cables or pipelines entering its territory or territorial
sea, or its jurisdiction over cables and pipelines 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.
5. When laying submarine cables or pipelines, States shall have due regard
to cables or pipelines already in position. In particular, possibilities of
repairing existing cables or pipelines shall not be prejudiced.
Article 60 applies mutatis mutandis to artificial islands, installations
and structures on the continental shelf.
Artificial islands, installations and structures
on the continental shelf
The coastal State shall have the exclusive right to authorize and regulate
drilling on the continental shelf for all purposes.
Drilling on the continental shelf
1. The coastal State shall make payments or contributions in kind in
respect of the exploitation of the non-living resources of the continental
shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth
of the territorial sea is measured.
Payments and contributions with respect to the exploitation
of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles
2. The payments and contributions shall be made annually with respect to
all production at a site after the first five years of production at that
site. For the sixth year, the rate of payment or contribution shall be 1
per cent of the value or volume of production at the site. The rate shall
increase by 1 per cent for each subsequent year until the twelfth year and
shall remain at 7 per cent thereafter. Production does not include
resources used in connection with exploitation.
3. A developing State which is a net importer of a mineral resource
produced from its continental shelf is exempt from making such payments or
contributions in respect of that mineral resource.
4. The payments or contributions shall be made through the Authority, which
shall distribute them to States Parties to this Convention, on the basis of
equitable sharing criteria, taking into account the interests and needs of
developing States, particularly the least developed and the land-locked
1. The delimitation of the continental shelf between States with opposite
or adjacent coasts shall be effected by agreement on the basis of
international law, as referred to in Article 38 of the Statute of the
International Court of Justice, in order to achieve an equitable solution.
Delimitation of the continental shelf between States with
opposite or adjacent coasts
2. If no agreement can be reached within a reasonable period of time, the
States concerned shall resort to the procedures provided for in Part XV.
3. Pending agreement as provided for in paragraph 1, the States concerned,
in a spirit of understanding and co-operation, shall make every effort to
enter into provisional arrangements of a practical nature and, during this
transitional period, not to jeopardize or hamper the reaching of the final
agreement. Such arrangements shall be without prejudice to the final
4. Where there is an agreement in force between the States concerned,
questions relating to the delimitation of the continental shelf shall be
determined in accordance with the provisions of that agreement.
1. Subject to this Part, the outer limit lines of the continental shelf and
the lines of delimitation drawn in accordance with article 83 shall be
shown on charts of a scale or scales adequate for ascertaining their
position. Where appropriate, lists of geographical co-ordinates of points,
specifying the geodetic datum, may be substituted for such outer limit
lines or lines of delimitation.
Charts and lists of geographical co-ordinates
2. The coastal State shall give due publicity to such charts or lists of
graphical co-ordinates and shall deposit a copy of each such chart or list
with the Secretary-General of the United Nations and, in the case of those
showing the outer limit lines of the continental shelf, with the
Secretary-General of the Authority.
This Part does not prejudice the right of the coastal State to exploit the
subsoil by means of tunnelling, irrespective of the depth of water above
Convention on the Law of the Sea: Index