Study finds 91 UN member states have cabotage laws


The following is text of a news release from the American Maritime Partnership (AMP):

(WASHINGTON) — Seafarers’ Rights International (SRI), a leading international research center on maritime and seafarers’ law, on Tuesday released a new report – Cabotage Laws of the World – finding that 80 percent of the world’s coastlines of United Nations (U.N.) maritime states have in place laws governing foreign maritime activity in domestic coastal trades – otherwise known as cabotage laws.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) commissioned this report given the lack of a recent, comprehensive accounting of maritime cabotage laws around the world, which was an impediment to thoughtful policy-making and fact-based decision-making.

Through an exploration of the nature and extent of cabotage laws around the world using input from practicing lawyers in 140 U.N. member states, SRI described the historical utilization, prevalence and importance of cabotage laws globally by confirming the existence of cabotage laws in 91 U.N. member states.

Findings highlight the historical origins of maritime cabotage, dating back to early rudimentary legal principles, and illustrate examples of the many different definitions of cabotage that exist at the national, regional and international levels designed to advance individual nation’s economic, national security, human capital and homeland security interests.

“For many people maritime cabotage, or coasting, coastwise or coastal trade as it is sometimes referred to, is understood, if at all, only vaguely. This is not surprising since so little is published on the subject,” said Deirdre Fitzpatrick, executive director of SRI. “This was a complex project, given language and cultural barriers and difficulties in statutory interpretations. But the subject is important. It affects a very wide range of trades, services and activities around the world, and with significant social and economic consequences. Policy makers especially need to know more about the subject."

Key findings of the study include:

• Cabotage is “widespread” – 91 member states and 80 percent of the world’s coastlines of U.N. maritime states have cabotage laws.
• Cabotage policy objectives are diverse and designed to maintain national security, promote fair competition, develop human capacity, create jobs, promote ship ownership, increase safety and security of ships in port, enhance marine environmental protection and preserve maritime knowledge and technology.
• Cabotage exists in every region of the world, and in a diversity of political, economical and legal systems.
• Cabotage laws have endured in some countries for centuries.

In the United States, cabotage laws that govern the transportation of goods and people between domestic ports are commonly referred to as the Jones Act, a maritime law that requires movements of goods and people be on vessels that are U.S.-flagged, U.S.-crewed, U.S.-built and U.S.-owned. This comprehensive study of U.N. members’ maritime policies and cabotage requirements can further inform policy-making in a fact-based manner.

“The United States is, and always has been, a maritime nation. From the very founding of our country, the American maritime industry has served a critical role in maintaining our national, homeland and economic security,” said Matt Woodruff, chairman of the American Maritime Partnership. “For policy-makers that work to promote a strong and vibrant economy and national security leaders charged with protecting the U.S. security posture, this comprehensive study reinforces the importance of cabotage laws – like the Jones Act – and the historical legislative actions taken to support maritime industries across the globe, including in nations like Russia, China and South Korea.”

This report, commissioned by the ITF engaged professional laws firms in 140 United Nations member states. A full copy of the report published by SRI is available at

By Professional Mariner Staff