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New report a circuit breaker providing policymakers a fact-based analysis of global cabotage laws

September 27, 2018 12:45 PM

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) welcomes the release of the new Seafarers’ Rights International report – Cabotage Laws of the World – a ground-breaking analysis of maritime cabotage laws around the world.

The study, commissioned by the ITF, provides the first independent analysis of maritime cabotage laws since 1992. Based on legislation and advice received from 140 countries, the SRI report reveals that 91 countries representing 80% of the world’s coastal UN Maritime States have cabotage laws restricting foreign maritime activity in their domestic coastal trades.

The ITF and its affiliates have been campaigning globally to underline the importance of national cabotage laws and the value of having domestic jobs in national waters, as well as domestic employment conditions for foreign seafarers in cases where national seafarers are not available.

ITF Seafarers’ Section Chair, David Heindel said today: “The lack of accurate facts on cabotage laws around the world has been an impediment for policymakers considering implementing cabotage laws. This report represents a circuit breaker, providing policymakers with the relevant facts for proper decision-making.”

“The SRI report debunks the myth that cabotage is an exception, not the rule. Laws governing maritime activity are widespread, currently existing in 91 countries covering 80% of the world’s coastlines of UN Maritime States.”

“We know there are a number of countries considering introducing, strengthening or diminishing cabotage regulation. This report will assure those governments that it makes sense to enforce national cabotage laws.”

According to the report, cabotage laws are commonplace and geared towards protecting local shipping industries, ensuring the retention of skilled maritime workers and preservation of maritime knowledge and technology, promoting safety and bolstering national security.

James Given, Chair of the ITF Cabotage Task Force said today: “The benefits of cabotage laws are self-evident. For countries that depend on the sea for their trade, cabotage safeguards their own strategic interests as maritime nations, bringing added economic value whilst also protecting national security and the environment,”

“Cabotage provides jobs for a country’s seafarers and also safeguards foreign seafarers against exploitation posed by the liberalisation in the global shipping industry, preventing a race to the bottom.”

“Without strong cabotage rules, local workers often have to compete with cheap, exploited foreign labour on Flag of Convenience vessels, the owners of which usually pay sub-standard wages and flout safety laws.”

The ITF remains committed to be the leading voice in the worldwide effort to secure strong, enforceable cabotage laws, that ensure workers have a voice, decent work, and that protect the environment and nations’ economic and national security.

Cabotage Laws of the World key findings:

  • Cabotage is “widespread”, with cabotage laws existing in 91 countries representing 80% of the world’s coastlines of UN Maritime States.
  • Cabotage exists across all political, economic and legal systems.
  • Cabotage policy objectives are diverse, designed to: maintain national security, promote fair competition, develop human capacity, create jobs, promote the shipping industry, promote safety and security of ships in port, enhance marine environmental protection and/or preserve maritime knowledge and technology.
  • Cabotage laws are diverse with a range of approaches taken by different countries regarding virtually every aspect of cabotage, with great diversity in the interpretation, administration and enforcement of cabotage.
  • Cabotage laws have endured for centuries, but continue to evolve.
  • Cabotage is not subject to a single definition accepted as binding on all states under international law. Regional and national definitions of cabotage vary widely. 

A full copy of the report is available here:

For more information contact

Luke Menzies, ITF Maritime Communications Manager
+61 (0) 433 889 844 | [email protected]