Can a country artificially increase its EEZ by building artificial islands and infrastructure? I am wondering if there's any law on that and if a country could use artificial islands as a way of expanding its territory. Does international law permit this?
No, apparently not. There are several factors at play.
- Land reclamation is valid, but not if the starting point is submerged at high tide. i.e. building an island from scratch.
It is clear from the text of UNCLOS that artificial islands are not assimilated to islands under the law of the sea:17 while the term “artificial island” is not defined within the Convention, an “island” is “a naturally formed area of land, surrounded by water, which is above water at high tide.
- Not naming any names, but if the island is being built within another country's EEZ or if the area is being disputed, then the claims get weaker.
UNCLOS specifically has this to say:
Artificial islands, installations and structures and the safety zones around them may not be established where interference may be caused to the use of recognized sea lanes essential to international navigation.
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.