Marco Buccarella

The Incredible Story of Rose Island to the test of law: artificial islands between fiction, (legal) reality and opportunities

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This paper, starting from the legal examination of the true story of Rose Island and similar cases, aims to provide an analysis of the international legal regime of artificial islands and others man-made structures, that today are both ambitious futuristic projects and a contemporary reality, used by China for military and nonmilitary purposes. The essay analyzes artificial islands in the light of the UNCLOS regime and of the international law. Their position under general international law, however, remains unclear. In particular, the problem about legal definition of their status and the question whether artificial islands can constitute sovereign territory capable of sovereign appropriation remain unresolved. The paper concludes that new legislation is necessary to regulate the construction of artificial islands in high seas and through land reclamation, demonstrating the time is opportune to improve international maritime law.


  • Rose Island
  • artificial islands
  • continental shelf
  • floating states
  • international maritime law


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