Landlocked country

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A landlocked state or country is a sovereign state entirely enclosed by land, or whose only coastlines lie on closed seas. There are currently 48 such countries, including four partially recognised states. Only two, Bolivia and Paraguay in South America, lie outside Afro-Eurasia (the Old World).

As a rule, being landlocked creates political and economic handicaps that access to the high seas avoids. For this reason, states large and small across history have striven to gain access to open waters, even at great expense in wealth, bloodshed, and political capital.

Depending on degree of development, language barriers, and other considerations, being landlocked may or may not pose economic disadvantages. Some historically landlocked countries are quite affluent, such as Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein, all of which frequently employ neutrality to their political advantage. The majority, however, are classified as Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs).[1] Nine of the twelve countries with the lowest Human Development Indices (HDI) are landlocked.[2]


Bolivia's loss of its coast in the War of the Pacific (1879–1884) remains a major political issue

Historically, being landlocked has been disadvantageous to a country's development. It cuts a nation off from such important sea resources as fishing, and impedes or prevents direct access to seaborne trade, a crucial component of economic and social advance. As such, coastal regions tended to be wealthier and more heavily populated than inland ones. Paul Collier in his book The Bottom Billion argues that being landlocked in a poor geographic neighborhood is one of four major development "traps" by which a country can be held back. In general, he found that when a neighboring country experiences better growth, it tends to spill over into favorable development for the country itself. For landlocked countries, the effect is particularly strong, as they are limited in their trading activity with the rest of the world. He states, "If you are coastal, you serve the world; if you are landlocked, you serve your neighbors."[3] Others have argued that being landlocked may actually be a blessing as it creates a "natural tariff barrier" which protects the country from cheap imports. In some instances this has led to more robust local food systems.[4][5]

Landlocked developing countries have significantly higher costs of international cargo transportation compared to coastal developing countries (in Asia the ratio is 3:1).[6]

Efforts to avoid

Countries thus have made particular efforts to avoid being landlocked, by acquiring land that reaches the sea:

Trade agreements

Countries can make agreements on getting free transport of goods through neighbour countries:

  • The Treaty of Versailles required Germany to offer Czechoslovakia a lease for 99 years of parts of the ports in Hamburg and Stettin, allowing Czechoslovakia sea trade via the Elbe and Oder rivers. Stettin was annexed by Poland after World War II, but Hamburg continued the contract so that part of the port (now called Moldauhafen) may still be used for sea trade by a successor of Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic.
  • The Danube is an international waterway, and thus landlocked Austria, Hungary, Moldova, Serbia, and Slovakia have secure access to the Black Sea (the same access is given to southern parts of Germany, itself not landlocked, and eastern parts of Croatia, which is also not landlocked). However, oceangoing ships cannot use the Danube, so cargo must be transloaded anyway, and many overseas imports into Austria and Hungary use land transport from Atlantic and Mediterranean ports. A similar situation exists for the Rhine river where Switzerland has boat access, but not oceangoing ships. Luxembourg has such through the Moselle, but Liechtenstein has no boat access, even though it is located along the Rhine, as the Rhine is not navigable that far upstream.
  • The Mekong is an international waterway so that landlocked Laos has secure access to the South China Sea (since Laos became independent from French Indochina). However, it is not entirely navigable due to the Khone Phapheng Falls.
  • Free ports allow transshipment to short-distance ships or river vessels.
  • The TIR Treaty allows sealed road transport without customs checks and charges, mostly in Europe.

Political repercussions

Losing access to the sea is generally a great blow to a nation, politically, militarily, and particularly with respect to international trade and therefore economic security:

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea now gives a landlocked country a right of access to and from the sea without taxation of traffic through transit states. The United Nations has a programme of action to assist landlocked developing countries,[8] and the current responsible Undersecretary-General is Anwarul Karim Chowdhury.

Some countries have a long coastline, but much of it may not be readily usable for trade and commerce. For instance, in its early history, Russia's only ports were on the Arctic Ocean and frozen shut for much of the year. The wish to gain control of a warm-water port was a major motivator of Russian expansion towards the Baltic Sea, Black Sea and Pacific Ocean. On the other hand, some landlocked countries can have access to the ocean along wide navigable rivers. For instance, Paraguay (and Bolivia to a lesser extent) have access to the ocean by the Paraguay and Parana rivers.

Several countries have coastlines on landlocked seas, such as the Caspian and the Aral. Since these seas are in effect lakes without access to wider seaborne trade, countries such as Kazakhstan are still considered landlocked. Although the Caspian Sea is connected to the Black Sea via the man-made Volga-Don Canal, large oceangoing ships are unable to traverse it.

By degree

Landlocked countries may be bordered by a single country having access to the high seas, two or more such countries, or be surrounded by another landlocked country (making a country doubly landlocked):

Landlocked by a single country

Three countries are landlocked by a single country:

Landlocked by two countries

Seven landlocked countries are surrounded by only two mutually bordering neighbors:

To this group could be added two de facto states with no or limited international recognition:

Doubly landlocked

A country is "doubly landlocked" or "double-landlocked" when it is surrounded entirely by one or more landlocked countries (requiring the crossing of at least two national borders to reach a coastline).[9][10]

There are currently only two such countries:

There were no doubly landlocked countries in recent times from the Unification of Germany in 1871 until the end of World War I. Liechtenstein bordered the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which had an Adriatic coastline, and Uzbekistan was then part of the Russian Empire, which had both ocean and sea access.

With the dissolution of Austria-Hungary in 1918 and creation of an independent, landlocked Austria, Liechtenstein became the sole doubly landlocked country until 1938. In the Nazi Anschluss that year Austria was absorbed into the Third Reich, which possessed a border on the Baltic Sea and the North Sea.

After World War II, Austria regained its independence and Liechtenstein once again became doubly landlocked. Uzbekistan, which had been absorbed by the new Soviet Union upon the toppling of the Russian throne in 1917, gained its independence with the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. in 1991 and became the second doubly landlocked country.

However, Uzbekistan's doubly landlocked status depends on the Caspian Sea's status dispute: some countries, especially Iran and Turkmenistan proves that the Caspian Sea should be considered as a real sea (mainly because this way they would have larger oil and gas fields), and in this case, Uzbekistan is only a simple landlocked country, because both Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan has access to the Caspian Sea from its neightbors.

List of landlocked countries

Country Area (km²) Population Cluster
Afghanistan 652,230 31,108,077 Central Asia
Andorra 468 84,082 (none)
Armenia 29,743 3,254,300 Caucasia
Austria 83,871 8,572,895 Central Europe
Azerbaijan[a][citation needed] 86,600 8,997,401 Caucasia
Belarus 207,600 9,484,300 (none)
Bhutan 38,394 691,141 (none)
Bolivia 1,098,581 10,907,778 South America
Botswana 582,000 1,990,876 Southern Africa
Burkina Faso 274,222 15,746,232 Central Africa
Burundi 27,834 8,988,091 Central Africa
Central African Republic 622,984 4,422,000 Central Africa
Chad 1,284,000 10,329,208 Central Africa
Czech Republic 78,867 10,674,947 Central Europe
Ethiopia 1,104,300 85,237,338 Central Africa
Hungary 93,028 10,005,000 Central Europe
Kazakhstan[a][b] 2,724,900 16,372,000 Central Asia
Kosovo[c] 10,908 1,804,838 Central Europe
Kyrgyzstan 199,951 5,482,000 Central Asia
Laos 236,800 6,320,000 (none)
Lesotho[d] 30,355 2,067,000 (none)
Liechtenstein 160 35,789 Central Europe
Luxembourg 2,586 502,202 (none)
  1. REDIRECT Template:Country data North Macedonia
25,713 2,114,550 Central Europe
Malawi 118,484 15,028,757 Southern Africa
Mali 1,240,192 14,517,176 Central Africa
Moldova 33,846 3,559,500 (Eastern Europe)
Mongolia 1,566,500 2,892,876 (none)
Nagorno-Karabakh[c] Caucasia
Nepal 147,181 26,494,504 (none)
Niger 1,267,000 15,306,252 Central Africa
Paraguay 406,752 6,349,000 South America
Rwanda 26,338 10,746,311 Central Africa
San Marino[d] 61 31,716 (none)
Serbia 88,361 7,306,677 Central Europe
Slovakia 49,035 5,429,763 Central Europe
South Ossetia[c] 3,900 72,000 (none)
South Sudan 619,745 8,260,490 Central Africa
Swaziland 17,364 1,185,000 (none)
Switzerland 41,284 7,785,600 Central Europe
Tajikistan 143,100 7,349,145 Central Asia
Transnistria[c] (Eastern Europe)
Turkmenistan[a] 488,100 5,110,000 Central Asia
Uganda 241,038 32,369,558 Central Africa
Uzbekistan[b] 447,400 27,606,007 Central Asia
Vatican City[d] 0.44 826 (none)
Zambia 752,612 12,935,000 Southern Africa
Zimbabwe 390,757 12,521,000 Southern Africa
Total 14,776,228 475,818,737
Percentage of World 11.4% 6.9%
a Has a coast on the saltwater Caspian Sea
b Has a coast on the saltwater Aral Sea
c Disputed region with limited international recognition
d Landlocked by just one country

They can be grouped in contiguous groups as follows:[12]

If Transnistria is included then Moldova and Transnistria form their own cluster, listed in parentheses in the table.

If it were not for the 40 km of coastline at Muanda, DR Congo would join the two African clusters into one, making them the biggest contiguous group in the world. Also, the Central Asian and Caucasian clusters can be considered contiguous, joined by the landlocked Caspian Sea.

There are the following "single" landlocked countries (each of them borders no other landlocked country):

If the Caucasian countries are counted as part of Europe, then Europe has the most landlocked countries, at 19. Kazakhstan is also sometimes regarded as a transcontinental country, so if that is included, the count for Europe goes up to 20. If these countries are included in Asia, then Africa has the most, at 16. Depending on the status of the three transcontinental countries, Asia has between 9 and 14, while South America has only 2. North America and Australia are the only continents with no landlocked countries (not including Antarctica).

See also


  1. Paudel, R. C. (2012). "Landlockedness and Economic Growth: New Evidence". Growth and Export Performance of Developing Countries: Is Landlockedness Destiny? (PDF). Canberra, Australia: Australian National University. pp. 13–72.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Faye, M. L.; McArthur, J. W.; Sachs, J. D.; Snow, T. (2004). "The Challenges Facing Landlocked Developing Countries". Journal of Human Development. 5 (1): 31–68 [pp. 31–32]. doi:10.1080/14649880310001660201.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Collier, Paul (2007). The Bottom Billion. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 56, 57. ISBN 978-0-19-537338-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Moseley, W. G.; Carney, J.; Becker, L. (2010). "Neoliberal Policy, Rural Livelihoods and Urban Food Security in West Africa: A Comparative Study of The Gambia, Côte d'Ivoire and Mali". Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 107 (13): 5774–5779. doi:10.1073/pnas.0905717107.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Moseley, W. G. (2011). "Lessons from the 2008 Global Food Crisis: Agro-Food Dynamics in Mali". Development in Practice. 21 (4–5): 604–612.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) (2010). Review of Maritime Transport, 2010 (PDF). New York and Geneva: United Nations. p. 160. ISBN 978-92-1-112810-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Chopra, P. N.; Puri, B. N.; Das, M. N. A Comprehensive History of India. 3. p. 298.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. UN Report
  9. Dempsey Morais, Caitlin. "Landlocked Countries". Geolounge. Retrieved November 4, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Landlocked Countries". Retrieved November 4, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. CIA World Factbook Uzbekistan
  12. MacKellar, Landis; Wörgötter, Andreas; Wörz, Julia. "Economic Development Problems of Landlocked Countries" (PDF). Wien Institute for Advanced Studies. p. 12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>