Bernaerts' Guide _UNCLOS 1982
                    Details to the book and further online access below












Book page 34-35


Section: Part IV, Articles 46-54  

Archipelagic States - UNCLOS 1982 The impact of the Convention on those states which can claim status as archipelagic states[1] due to the fact that they consist of a group of islands forming an intrinsic geographical, economic, and political entity[2] is considerable, as all of the water area between the islands (the archipelagic waters) is under the sovereignty of the state[3], regardless of the depth of the water or the distance from the coast[4] One of the consequences of this assignment of sovereignty is that passage of vessels through these areas is basically innocent passage[5]. Sea lanes and air routes[6] through archipelagic waters are governed by specific regulations, including certain provisions of the regime of passage through straits[7]. Vessels are to respect sea lanes and traffic separation schemes[8]. As long as the archipelagic state has not designated sea lanes as provided by the Convention, the routes normally used for international navigation may be used as "sea lanes,"[9] with the status of "archipelagic sea lane passage"[10]. If necessary for the security of the state, navigation may be suspended temporarily in specified areas of the archipelagic waters, but this may not result in a suspension of sea lane passage[11].

An archipelagic state may draw straight archipelagic baselines of a maximum of 125 nautical miles in length to join the outermost points of the outermost islands and drying reefs,[12] provided that the ratio of land to water is not more than 1:1 and not less than 1:9[13]. These baselines are to be shown on charts and given due publicity.[14] The waters enclosed by the archipelagic baselines are the archipelagic waters and are under the sovereignty of the state[15].  

1 Art. 46, Subpara. (a)
2 Art. 46, Subpara. (b)
3 Art. 2, Para.1,
Art. 49, Para .1
4 Art. 49, Para
. 1
5 Art. 52
6 Art. 53
7 Art. 53, Para
. 2-3; Art. 54
Art. 53, Para . 11

9 Art. 53, Para.12
Art. 53, Para . 1-3
Art. 52, Para . 2; 54; 44
Art. 47, Para . 1-2
Art. 47, Para . 1, 3-7
Art. 47, Para . 8-9
15 Art. 49, Art. 2, Para . 1
Art. 50

17 Art. 5
Art. 8, Para . 2
Art. 48
20 Art. 53, Para . 1
Art. 51
22 Art. 54
23 Art.
24 e.g. Art. 42; 44

The legal concept of archipelagic waters is without prejudice for the right of the state to draw lines for the delimitation of internal waters in accordance with Articles 9, 10, and 11[16] for the mouths of rivers, bays, and ports. Such lines of delimitation are known as closing lines rather than baselines as in the territorial sea concept,[17] as they serve only as the boundary for waters completely outside the jurisdiction of the Convention (internal waters) and do not act as the starting point for establishing zones. There is no right of innocent passage in internal waters enclosed by closing lines, even if they were not considered internal waters previously, a further contrast to the territorial sea concept[18]

The territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone, and continental shelf are measured from the archipelagic baselines, not from the closing lines drawn to delimit internal waters[19]. An archipelagic state may designate sea lanes through its archipelagic waters and through the adjacent territorial sea as well, and establish air routes there above[20].

An archipelagic state is to respect existing agreements and to recognize legitimate activities by neighbouring states in its archipelagic waters; this includes existing submarine cables passing through the archipelagic waters. An archipelagic state is to permit the maintenance and replace­ment of such cables[21]. In respect to pollution matters, there is a curious situation which might raise some concern in practice.  

Archipelagic sea lane passage is obviously intended to have a status similar to that of transit passage through straits."[22] But whereas the general enforcement regulations for pollution from vessels referred to in Part XII (Pollution) are not applicable in straits[23], a corresponding exclusion for archipelagic sea lane passage, either expressis verbis or by reference, does not exist. Archipelagic states may therefore apply Part XII to the full extent if not contrary to specific provisions of Part IV[24].

 47, Para . 1, 3-714] Art15] Art. 49, Art. 2, Para . 116] Art. 50    17] Art. 518]  2 Art. 4820] Art. 53, Para . 121] Art. 5122] Art. 543] Art. 23324]e.g. Art. 42; 44  

Operations in Archipelagic Waters _ Unclos 1982

NEXT page 26-28

Book published:
1988 Fairplay/UK,
2005 (reprint) by

Trafford Publishing,
1663 Liberty Drive Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403, Canada.

329 pages, ISBN 1-4120-7665-x;

Available via online-contributer 




Online – Edition

Bernaerts' Guide to the 
1982 United Nations
Convention on the Law of the Sea


Click here

Bernaerts Guide -UNCLOS 1982

English and Russian
Click here

Link to ToC






Preface of the reprint in 2005

More than 15 years ago FAIRPLAY PUBLICATIONS Ltd, Coulsdon, Surrey, England, published the book "Bernaerts' Guide to the Law of the Sea - The 1982 United Nations Convention". The guiding potential of the book to find access to the Law of the Sea Convention is still given. Internet technology and publishing on demand invite to provide the interested reader and researcher with this tool again. Only the Status of the Convention (ratification etc) has been updated and instead of the Final Act, the book edition includes the "Agreement relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea" of 1994. The corresponding web site neither includes the text of the 1982 Convention, nor the Agreement of 1994. The thorough Index of the 1988 edition is reproduced without changes.
Arnd Bernaerts, October 2005,
Comments 1988-1990
___"an invaluable guide to the understanding and implementation of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea"
Satya N. Nandan, U.N. Undersecretay, in: Book Foreword, 1988
__"clearly presented" R.R. Churchill, in: Maritime Policy & Management 1989, p. 340
__"the (book's) concept, which is so wonderful simple, is exactly the factor which makes the book so useful for both the novice as well as the person with extensive experience"
M. Bonefeld, in: Verfassung und Recht, 1989, pp. 83-85
__"the work contains much useful background information…." R.W. Bentham, in: Journal of Energy & Natural Resource Law, 1989, p. 336
__"Bernaerts has saved us a struggle" JG, in: Fairplay Shipping Weekly Magazin, 13th October 1988, p. 33
__"this is probably the best edition on the Convention to put into the hands of students"
A.V. Lowe, in: Int'l and Comparative Law Quarterly 1990, p. 16
__"it will be an invaluable reference tool and should sit on the book shelves of policy makers and all others who are involved in maritime matters"
Vivian I. Forbes, in: The Indian Ocean Review, May 1990, p.10

Bernaerts’s Guide to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

FOREWORD of the 1988 edition
by Satya N. Nandan
Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for the Law of the Sea Office for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea

Revolutionary changes have taken place in the International Law of the Sea since 1945. The process of change was accelerated in the last two decades by the convening in 1973 of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea. The protracted negotiations, spanning over a decade, culminated in the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982. By 9 December 1984, the closing date for signature, 159 signatures were appended to the Convention, the largest number for any such multilateral instrument in the history of international relations.

The Convention, which was adopted as a comprehensive package, introduced a new equity in the relationship among states with respect to the uses of the ocean and the allocation of its resources. It deals, inter alia, with sovereignty and jurisdiction of states, navigation and marine transport, over flight of aircraft, marine pollution, marine scientific research, marine technology, conservation and exploitation of marine living resources, the development and-exploitation of marine non-living resources in national and international areas, and unique provisions dealing with the settlement of disputes concerning the interpretation and application of the new regime.

There is no doubt that as we approach the 21st century, more and more attention will be paid to the uses of the oceans and the development of their resources. It is important, therefore, that these developments should take place within a widely accepted legal framework so that there is certainty as to the rights and obligations of all states. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea provides that framework. It establishes a standard for the conduct of states in maritime matters. It is thus a major instrument for preventing conflicts among states.

The convention and its annexes contain over 400 articles. For many it may be a formidable undertaking to grasp the substance and structure of it without making a considerable investment in time and energy. Mr Bernaerts' guide, therefore, is a welcome addition to the growing body of literature on the convention. It provides a most useful reference tool which will benefit administrators and policy makers, as well as scholars. It makes the convention accessible to the uninitiated and refreshes, at a glance, the memories of the initiated. With meticulous references and graphic presentations of the provisions of the convention, Mr Bernaerts has given to the international community an invaluable guide to the understanding and implementation of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
April 1988

PREFACE (extract) of the 1988 edition

The reader will be aware that the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is the first constitution of the oceans, a ground-breaking document in many respects. He or she might also have made the discovery that the full text of the Convention is immediately accessible only to experts. If the Convention were only a treaty consisting of straightforward technical regulatory provisions, it could be left to them with a clear conscience. But the Convention is to a large extent a political document and, as such, is expected to influence significantly the development of relations among the states in the world community; for this reason, a wide-spread knowledge of the scope, goals, and regulatory framework of the Convention can only serve to further the aims of the document and would surely follow the intentions of the many men and women who made this Convention their life-work, such as Arvid Pardo (Malta), Hamilton Shirtey Amerasinghe (Sri Lanka), Tommy T. B. Koh (Singapore), and Satya N. Nandan (Fiji), to name only a few of the hundreds who worked on the preparation of this Convention.
As the reader uses the Guide (Part II), he will find that many provisions of the Convention are much easier to understand if one knows the basic framework within which a particular regulation is placed. The Guide aims to provide this framework, with reference to the text of the Convention and, in addition, t& the supporting Commentary of Part III, which describes the overall context of the major terms arid concepts. The Introduction of Part I sketches the historical background of the Convention and some of the general effects. A detailed index at the end of the book will be of assistance in finding specific subjects.


Last update 31 December 2012

Main Sites on Climate Change during World Wars
Book 2012:

Arctic Warming 1919 – A World War I Issue

  Books 2005/06
Book 2005:
Ditto (short version):
 Booklet 2006:
Booklet in Russian 2006:

Reference SEA-LAW (UNCLOS) links : , ,

Material in German

Miscellaneous , ,