While it is undisputed that maritime rights derive from the coastal State’s sovereignty over the land, a principle commonly summarized as ‘the land dominates the sea’, there may be situations where the issue of maritime entitlements arises with respect to coastal or island territory over which sovereignty is uncertain or disputed. There are current cases where the authorities of unrecognized States (or quasi-State entities) such as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), Somaliland, Western Sahara, etc., have claimed maritime zones. There are also various instances where disputed land or island territory is taken into consideration in the delimitation of maritime zones (and the drawing of baselines). In these contexts, what is the impact of the absence of uncontested sovereignty over the land on maritime entitlements?

PIL Advisory Group experts on the law of the sea review contemporary State practice in certain of these cases, in order to assess the continuing relevance of the above-mentioned principle and its consequences, and discern what may be the basic applicable rules which should govern maritime delimitation in such zones.

In that context, PIL Advisory Group Director Pierre-Emmanuel Dupont delivered a presentation on ‘Contested sovereignty over territorial zones and the delimitation of maritime boundaries’ at a conference held at King’s College London on ‘Stress Testing the Law of the Sea: Dispute Resolution, Disasters and New Challenges’ (30 September-1 October 2016). The conference was hosted by the Transnational Law Institute (TLI) in collaboration with the Law of the Sea Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (LOSI), with additional sponsorship from The Honorable G. William and Ariadna Miller Institute for Global Challenges and the Law, Berkeley Law. The conference was convened by Stephen Minas, Senior Research Fellow, TLI and Jordan Diamond, Executive Director, LOSI.


The South China Sea moves to the Indian Ocean: Conflicting Claims Over the Tromelin Islet and its Maritime Entitlements

Maritime claims of Western Sahara

‘Stress Testing the Law of the Sea’ international conference in London


Maritime Boundaries