You Might Like
Landlocked countries: 42 landlocked (green), 2 doubly landlocked (purple)
Landlocked countries: 42 landlocked (green), 2 doubly landlocked (purple)

A landlocked state or landlocked country is a sovereign state entirely enclosed by land, or whose only coastlines lie on closed seas. There are currently 49 such countries, including five partially recognised states.

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.

The economic disadvantages of being landlocked can be alleviated or aggravated depending on degree of development, language barriers, and other considerations. Some landlocked countries are quite affluent, such as Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, and Austria, all of which, excluding Luxembourg, which is a founding member of NATO, 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]


Historically, being landlocked has been disadvantageous to a country's development. It cuts a nation off from important sea resources such 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]

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

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

Losing access to the sea is generally a great blow to a nation, politically, militarily, and economically. The following are examples of countries becoming landlocked.

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,[11] 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 through the Paraguay and Parana rivers.

Several countries have coastlines on landlocked bodies of water, such as the Caspian Sea and the Dead Sea. 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 direct access to the high seas, two or more such countries, or be surrounded by other landlocked countries, making a country doubly landlocked.

Three countries are landlocked by a single country (enclaved countries):

Seven landlocked countries are surrounded by only two mutually bordering neighbours (semi-enclaved countries):

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

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).[12][13] There are two such countries:

After the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire, the Kingdom of Württemberg became a doubly landlocked state, bordering only Bavaria, Baden, and Switzerland. There were no doubly landlocked countries 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 part of the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union, 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, claim that the Caspian Sea should be considered as a real sea (mainly because this way they would have larger oil and gas fields), which would make Uzbekistan only a simple landlocked country because its neighbours Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan have access to the Caspian Sea.

List of landlocked countries and territories

They can be grouped in contiguous groups as follows:[16]

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 (25 mi) of coastline at Muanda, Democratic Republic of the 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. Mongolia is almost part of this cluster too, being separated from Kazakhstan by only 30 km (19 mi), across Russian or Chinese territory.

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

If the Caucasian countries and Kazakhstan are counted as part of Europe, then Europe has the most landlocked countries, at 20. If these transcontinental 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 15, while South America has only 2. North America and Oceania are the only continents with no landlocked countries (not including Antarctica, which has no countries).

See also

You Might Like