What is the territorial shelf under international law?

territorial shelf, territorial se, sea


During the earlier times, the main use of the sea was navigation and fishing. But as human beings progressed and got to know about the technology, he used the same so as to satisfy his needs, sources that were under the ground are now used by him in order to satisfy his needs.

When he used technology to explore under the ocean floor he found many resources like natural gas, oil, sand, gold, diamond, minerals etc.

The term continental shelf or territorial shelf refers to the ledges that protrude from the continental landmass into the ocean. It is surrounded by a Shallow zone of water around 150-200 meters deep. And this will eventually mix up into the depth of the ocean that is around 1000s meters deep.

And then these shelves cover around 8% of the total area of the water of the ocean and also the size varies with place.

This becomes a factor of the continent throughout glacial periods, however stays under the ocean throughout interglacial periods. The continental cabinets are loaded with oil and herbal fuel line sources and pretty regularly are a bunch to large scale grounds for fishing.

There are numerous rights and liabilities upon coastal states and their extent. Further numerous conventions – Geneva conference, 1958 and conference at the regulation of the ocean, 1982 have made the reputation of those continental shelf rights with the aid of using the states inside much less than 13 years and could be very critical for the law of the exploration and exploitation of the sources of the continental shelf.


Over the years organic materials like the remains of plants and animals or inorganic materials like the sediments form the territorial shelf. They were formed among glacial intervals as the sea flowed over the continents forming shallow regions alongside the coasts.

About 18,000 years ago, all through the peak of the Pleistocene ice a long time outside link, tons of what’s now a continental shelf became absolutely above water. During interglacial intervals, like today, the shelf is submerged below especially shallow waters.

The waters of the continental shelf are not often extra than 500 ft. deep, in comparison to the open ocean which may be miles deep. Much of the continental shelf became uncovered dry land all through glacial intervals.


The continental shelf, in its geological sense, maybe very un-similarly dispensed across the continent.

The significance of the continental shelf and the need for a unique felony regime relevant to it, did now no longer, however, come to be obvious till the query of the character and volume of the coastal country’s rights to discover and take advantage of the herbal assets of the continental shelf changed into given a brand new urgency via way of the invention withinside the subsoil of the sea-mattress of a mineral supply of wealth, particularly petroleum.

Furthermore, thru advances in engineering and medical research, the submarine oil-bearing strata have become able to exploit and explore with the aid of gadgets running from the sea-mattress of the excessive seas.[xii]As the significance of continental shelf changed into of countrywide significance in the area of a felony, geographical, social and economic, it changed into covered withinside the global regulation.

Shelf seas occupy approximately 7% of the place of the world’s oceans however their financial significance is considerably greater. A continental shelf is the brink of a continent that lies beneath neath the ocean. A continental shelf extends from the shoreline of a continent to a drop-off factor referred to as the shelf break.

From the break, the shelf descends towards the deep ocean ground in what’s referred to as the continental slope. The continental shelf is a critical maritime zone, one which holds many sources and essential habitats for marine life. The majority of the world’s continental shelf is unknown and unmapped.

The time period Continental Shelf first utilized in 1887 with the aid of using Hugh Robert Mill. The Continental Shelf is the lightly sloping undersea undeniable among a continent and the deep ocean. The continental shelf is an extension of the continent’s landmass beneath neath the ocean.

The United Nations Convention at the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) became created after prolonged debates, discussions, and meetings. It is important, however with development, in time avoid ought to seem in its scope and that must be laboured on with the aid of using the member nations as opposed to ignoring it, for efficiency.

India is positioned at an important role with reference to the Indian Ocean with a shoreline of extra than 3000 miles, the fisheries, islands, petroleum and mineral interests, custom laws, sources from global areas, and its distinct financial zones, and so forth associated with the ocean is immensely critical for the nation. India’s change in sports over the seas may be traced returned to historical times.


International Law Commission mentioning that the purpose for its now no longer adopting a hard and fast restriction for the continental shelf (this restriction being decided via way of the intensity of the superjacent waters or, to be extra exact, via way of intensity of hundred meters) “coincides precisely with that at which the continental shelf, withinside the geological sense, typically involves an end” is that “this type of restriction might have the downside of instability.”

“Technical traits withinside the close to future,” the Commission continued, “would possibly make it viable to take advantage of the assets of the seabed at an intensity of over a hundred meters.” Therefore, the volume isn’t always confined to 200km nautical miles.


The waters above the continental cabinets are of amazing significance for navigation and fisheries. Maritime delivery should of necessity use those waters. Because of the self-esteem of the water fish are ample and accessible. Submarine cables for communications are probably laid at the sea mattress.

International regulation, each thru treaty and commonplace usage, confirms every coastal country’s proper to discover and take advantage of the herbal assets of its continental shelf.

The idea of the continental shelf is a datum of nature provided as a medium for juridical technique; it has a tendency to justify State jurisdiction over the exploration and exploitation of the herbal assets of the mattress and the subsoil of positive regions of the excessive seas.

It is, however, incontestable that the proper to take advantage of positive herbal assets of the sea-mattress and subsoil, including pearls, corals, sponges, amber and chank, did become appeared because the monopoly of the coastal country if it selected to take advantage of them.

Proper characterization of continental shelf rights obtained below global regulation may also help in treaty negotiations and indecision of disputes amongst nations. Petroleum reservoirs straddling global barriers offer possibly a great illustration.

Whether one coastal country can legitimately bitch if an adjoining country extracts all of the oil or fuel lines from a reservoir that extends to its continental shelf relies upon the character and volume of the rights of that country below global regulation.


Continental shelf seas – the marginal seas adjoining to the land – are the area in which humanity predominantly interacts with the sea.

Shelf seas occupy approximately 7% of the vicinity of the world’s oceans however their monetary significance is extensively more and the social significance of shelf seas enhances their monetary price due to the fact the seas offer the principal supply for livelihood and a focal point for lots coastal communities.

Development of herbal sources of the continental shelf without being adverse to competing guidelines ought to be made and its popularity ought to be advocated as a precept of global law.

One manner of reaching this can be to preserve continuity in thoughts the 2 guiding ideas formulated in 1950 through the International Law Commission of the United Nations:

  • (1) to inspire the exploitation of the herbal sources which the continental shelf gives to mankind, due to the fact that it’s far envisioned to represent greater than seven in step with cent of the world’s sea areas;
  • (2) to keep away from the imprisonment of felony idea inside an inflexible and formalistic idea of the doctrine of the liberty of the seas. Therefore, the characterization of the rights of a coastal nation to continental shelf herbal sources as actual belongings rights is a well-evolved doctrine

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