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Archipelagic state

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An archipelagic state is an island country that consists of an archipelago. The designation is legally defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). In various conferences,[1] the Bahamas, Fiji, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines are the five original sovereign states that obtained approval in the UNCLOS signed in Montego Bay, Jamaica on 10 December 1982 and qualified as the archipelagic states.[2]

Archipelagic states are composed of groups of islands forming a state as a single unit, with the islands and the waters within the baselines as internal waters. Under this concept ("archipelagic doctrine"), an archipelago shall be regarded as a single unit, so that the waters around, between, and connecting the islands of the archipelago, irrespective of their breadth and dimensions, form part of the internal waters of the state, and are subject to its exclusive sovereignty. The baselines must enclose the main islands of the archipelago and the enclosed water to land ratio must be "between 1:1 and 9:1".[3]

The approval of the United Nations (UN) for the five sovereign states as archipelagic states respect[4] existing agreements with other countries and shall recognize traditional fishing rights and other legitimate activities of the immediately adjacent neighboring countries in certain areas falling within archipelagic waters. The terms and conditions for the exercise of such rights and activities, including the nature, the extent and the areas to which they apply, shall, at the request of any of the countries concerned, be regulated by bilateral agreements between them. Such rights shall not be transferred to or shared with third countries or their nationals.[5]

As of 20 June 2015, a total of 22 sovereign states have sought to claim archipelagic status.[6]

List of archipelagic states[edit]

This is a list of the current archipelagic states in the world. These 22 island countries have sought to claim archipelagic status by utilising the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea provisions.[6][7]

Bolded are the five original official archipelagic states.

State Geographical configuration[6] Geological type[8] Population Area (km2)[9] Population

(per km2)
Geographical location
 Antigua and Barbuda One archipelago with two main islands Oceanic 97,118 440 194 Caribbean Sea
Leeward Islands
 Bahamas One archipelago 392,000 13,878 23.27 North Atlantic Ocean
Lucayan Archipelago
 Cape Verde 518,467 4,033 125.5 North Atlantic Ocean
 Comoros 784,745 2,235 275 Indian Ocean
Comoro Islands
 Dominican Republic[10] One archipelago with the main island (Hispaniola) shared with another country (Haiti) Continental 10,652,000 48,442 208.2 Caribbean Sea
Greater Antilles
 Fiji One archipelago with two main islands Various[note 1] 859,178 18,274 46.4 South Pacific Ocean
 Grenada[note 2] One archipelago with two main islands Oceanic 110,000 344 319.8 Caribbean Sea
Windward Islands
 Indonesia One archipelago with four islands (Borneo, Sebatik, New Guinea, and Timor) shared with four other countries (Brunei, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and Timor-Leste). Various[note 3] 270,203,917 1,904,569 124.7 World Ocean
Maritime Southeast Asia
 Jamaica One archipelago with one main island 2,847,232 10,991 252 Caribbean Sea
Greater Antilles
 Kiribati Three archipelagos Oceanic 123,346 811 152 Pacific Ocean
 Maldives One archipelago 329,198 298 1,105 Indian Ocean
Maldive Islands
 Marshall Islands Two archipelagos 62,000 181 342.5 North Pacific Ocean
 Mauritius Two archipelagos[clarification needed] with two main islands 1,244,663 2,040 610 Indian Ocean
Mascarene Islands
 Papua New Guinea One archipelago with the main island (New Guinea) shared with another country (Indonesia) Continental shelf 6,732,000 462,840 14.5 South Pacific Ocean
 Philippines One archipelago 101,398,120 300,000 295 North Pacific Ocean
Maritime Southeast Asia
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines One archipelago with one main island 120,000 389 307 Caribbean Sea
Windward Islands
 São Tomé and Príncipe One archipelago with two main islands 163,000 1,001 169.1 Atlantic Ocean
Cameroon Line
 Seychelles Four archipelagos Oceanic 87,500 455 192 Indian Ocean
Seychelles Islands
 Solomon Islands Five archipelagos 523,000 28,400 18.1 South Pacific Ocean
 Trinidad and Tobago One archipelago with two main islands Continental shelf 1,299,953 5,131 254.4 Caribbean Sea
Lesser Antilles
 Tuvalu One archipelago Oceanic 12,373 26 475.88 South Pacific Ocean
 Vanuatu One archipelago 243,304 12,190 19.7 South Pacific Ocean

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Viti Levu is continental while some small offshore islands are oceanic.
  2. ^ Including Carriacou and Petite Martinique.
  3. ^ The geology of Indonesia is very complex, as the country is located at a meeting point of several tectonic plates. Indonesia is located between two continental plates: Australian Plate (Sahul Shelf) and the Eurasian Plate (Sunda Shelf); and between two oceanic plates: the Pacific Plate and the Philippine Sea Plate.


  1. ^ "Preamble to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea: Article 46 – Use of Terms". United Nations. May 13, 2013.
  2. ^ "United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982". United Nations. May 13, 2013.
  3. ^ "Semaphore: April 2005". www.navy.gov.au. Royal Australian Navy. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  4. ^ "2 laws UNLCOS 200 and Archipelagic States to End Spratlys Disputes: THE ARCHIPELAGIC STATES". Rebuilding for the Better Philippines. May 13, 2013.
  5. ^ "PART IV ARCHIPELAGIC STATES: Article 51 – Existing agreements, traditional fishing rights and existing submarine cables". United Nations. May 13, 2013.
  6. ^ a b c Archipelagic States Practice
  7. ^ The Law of the Sea — Practice of Archipelagic States
  8. ^ "United Nations Environment Programme – Island Directory". Archived from the original on 2008-02-14. Retrieved 2021-10-24.
  9. ^ "Island Countries Of The World". WorldAtlas.com. Archived from the original on 2017-12-07. Retrieved 2019-08-10.
  10. ^ Analysis on the legitimacy of the Declaration of the Dominican Republic as an Archipelagic State and its legality under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the international law