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?

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    Well China seems to think so, but so far the US disagrees. Ultimately, it doesn't matter what we think. The famous saying applies here: "Might makes Right." Commented Jun 12, 2021 at 18:29
  • You mean, like much of The Netherlands and almost all of Holland? ;-)
    – gerrit
    Commented Nov 26, 2021 at 14:19

1 Answer 1


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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  • however natural islands may affect these regions, I seem to recall that Iceland expanded its exclusive claim to cod fisheries after Surtsey became a permanent island.
    – James K
    Commented Jun 12, 2021 at 19:13
  • What if it's not an island, but simply an extension to existing land, such as Maasvlakte or Maasvlakte 2? Openstreetmap does seem to draw a bump in the marine border. Is it wrong, or does the Maasvlakte actually increase the Dutch EEZ?
    – gerrit
    Commented Nov 26, 2021 at 14:18

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