Access to sea trading

Access to the sea
A TPF needs to take into account the most basic
issues affecting a country’s prospects, including its
location and geographic characteristics. Economists
have always recognized, for example, that access to
the sea is an important factor in determining a country’s
ability to trade. According to Adam Smith (1776: 32),
“it is upon the sea coast … that industry of every kind
naturally begins to subdivide and improve itself, and
it is frequently that not till a long time after that those
improvements extend themselves to the inland parts”.
Modern economists agree that location is critical.
Economic development is “shaped very importantly
by the biophysical and geophysical characteristics of
economies”, according to McCord and Sachs, with
incomes differing “in no small part because of sharp
differences across regions in the natural resource
base and physical geography (e.g. distance to coast),
and by the amplification of those differences through
the dynamics of saving and investment”.3
The data in table 4 confirm that countries’ access to
the sea is closely related to their levels of success. Income levels in islands, isthmuses and peninsulas are
three times higher than they are in the merely coastal

countries and almost eight times higher than they are
in landlocked countries. There are of course exceptional cases of islands that are relatively poor, as well as
landlocked countries that are relatively rich, but “exceptional” is the key word. This distinction speaks to the
importance of trade in development, insofar as those
countries for which sea lanes are nearer and transportation costs are lower will typically have not only a
greater propensity to trade but may also do so at lower
cost. Landlocked countries are obliged to look to their
neighbours for access to shipping facilities, and even
if that access is relatively easy, their trade costs will inevitably be higher than those faced by coastal countries. This distinction also concerns the advantages
that countries may enjoy in lucrative services sectors.
In some countries, access to the sea might equate to
an abundance of sun, sand, and surf. Tourism is an
especially important sector for several of the more economically successful small island countries. Being an
island may not guarantee the attraction of tourists, but
it is undeniably an asset for many countries.
Access to the sea is thus a critical issue to take into
account when devising the trade policy framework
for any country. Those that enjoy this feature have an
opportunity that they would do well to develop and to
exploit, both for their own industries and (if they should
have landlocked neighbours) for their regions; those
that lack it must find ways to overcome this obstacle.
This one factor may outweigh almost all others, apart
perhaps from endowments of mineral resources, in
its capacity to shape the opportunities available to
countries. The point here is not that policymakers in
island countries need do nothing in order to prosper,
nor that their counterparts in landlocked countries
should throw up their hands in despair. The implication
is that planning should start from the realization that
any country’s challenges and opportunities will be
shaped in the first instance by their geographic realities,
and that these realities must be acknowledged and
addressed directly.
While it would go too far to claim that geography is
destiny, it is evidently a major element in countries’
challenges and opportunities. The most important
issue here is not whether countries enjoy or do not
enjoy this singular advantage, but rather what steps
they take either to make the most of this advantage
or — if they lack it — to make up for the deficit. When
preparing a TPF, researchers would do well to consider
how this factor has worked into the calculations made
by their counterparts in other countries. Some TPFs
explicitly deal with the consequences of being an
island or landlocked. While the Jamaica document
observed that in some respects the country’s status
as a small island State places it at a disadvantage,
the TPF went on to promote a logistics hub initiative
“that seeks to position Jamaica as the fourth node
in global logistics (after Singapore, Rotterdam and
Dubai)” in order “to push Jamaica to the centre of the
global supply chain of the Americas” (p.75). Similarly,
the TPF for Namibia stresses the development of
transport corridors at the Port of Walvis Bay, and the
Trans-Kalahari, Trans-Caprivi, Trans-Cunene, and
Trans-Oranje regions. These corridors “are strategic
to give a competitive positioning to Namibia as a
transport hub for all regional and international trade
between Southern African Development Community
(SADC) countries, Europe, the Americas and beyond,”
according to the TPF (p.37), and the Government also
“intends to develop an international logistics hub for
SADC” and “has already commissioned a project on
the master plan for development of an international
logistics hub”

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