Since the dispute of South China Sea among the coastal states escalated in last decade, the legal status of low-tide elevation has been debated by the claimants. It is not the first time that low-tide elevation becomes an object under international disputes. There has been several ICJ awards and other arbitration awards that had dealt with the low-tide elevation issues. This article reviewed these cases and the provision in UNCLOS, then summarized some existing rule about low-tide elevation.
As shown in the 2012 award of ICJ, a low-tide elevation cannot be appropriated separately. However, a low-tide elevation can still be crucial in delimitation of maritime zone, if the low-tide elevation is nearby other high-tide features. Especially in the 2016 award of PCA, the tribunal considered that a low-tide elevation which fall within the territorial sea of a high-tide feature as extended by other low-tide elevation could serve as a basepoint for the territorial sea of the high-tide feature. The opinion of the tribunal is quite different from the traditional common perception.