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Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, States are entitled to claim four maritime zones off their coasts (territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf) within which they have sovereignty, sovereign rights or jurisdiction, as explained in chapters four, seven, eight and nine. The outer limits of these four zones are, respectively, twelve, twenty-four, 200 and up to 350 nautical miles. Those distances are measured from what is known as the ‘baseline’. The latter is normally the low-water line. However, in certain circumstances other lines may be used as the baseline. This chapter explains how the low-water line is determined and the circumstances in which other lines may be used as the baseline. Such lines include those connecting the outermost points on coasts that are deeply indented and/or fringed with islands and those drawn across the mouths of bays, rivers and harbour entrances. The chapter also considers the role of islands in the application of baselines, as well as the effect on baselines of predicted increases in sea levels.

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