Territorial waters

coastal waters that are part of a nation-state's sovereign territory

Territorial waters or a territorial sea is a belt of coastal waters that goes at most 12 nautical miles (22 km; 14 mi) from the edge of a coastal state. The territorial sea is the land of the state underwater. Foreign ships and submarines are only allowed to sail in territorial waters, when the state gives its permission. Ownership also extends to the airspace above and the seabed below, which is also the same length.

Schematic map of maritime zones.

The term "territorial waters" is also sometimes used to mean any area of water, a state has jurisdiction. This includes internal waters, the contiguous zone, the exclusive economic zone and potentially the continental shelf.

Unlike territorial waters, in an exclusive economic zone, foreign ships and submarines from other countries can freely sail without any permission. However, this is under the condition that they are just passing by and not taking any resources, which is only reserved to the state who owns it.

Contiguous zone


The contiguous zone is a band of water that goes from the outer edge of the territorial sea to up to 24 nautical miles (44 km; 28 mi) from the baseline.