Artificial Islands and Territory in International Law

35 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2018 Last revised: 8 Nov 2018

Date Written: October 25, 2018


Artificially created islands are a contemporary reality, created and used for military and non-military purposes. Analysis of such islands has largely been limited to their status under United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) regime. Their position under general international law, however, remains unclear. In particular, the question of whether artificial islands can constitute sovereign territory remains unanswered. This article analyses the concept of territory in international law in the context of artificial islands, arguing that both the doctrine of territory and the strictures of UNCLOS do not prevent artificial islands as constituting territory, capable of sovereign appropriation: albeit territory not generating a territorial sea. Indeed, understanding artificial islands as potentially constituting territory allows for a more comprehensive positioning of such islands in regards to other general international law doctrines including the unlawful acquisition of territory.

Keywords: territory, artificial islands, public international law, law of the sea

Suggested Citation

Saunders, Imogen, Artificial Islands and Territory in International Law (October 25, 2018). Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Vol. 52, No. 3, 2019, ANU College of Law Research Paper No. 18-19, Available at SSRN:

Imogen Saunders (Contact Author)

ANU College of Law ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics