Maritime transport

Maritime services have benefited in recent years by considerable expansion fostered by globalization. Many restrictive maritime policies have disappeared or ceased to be applied.

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Maritime services is an area where negotiations were scheduled to improve on the commitments included in the initial Uruguay Round schedules of commitments. Negotiations were originally due to end in June 1996 but participants failed to agree on a package of commitments. Talks resumed when the new services round of negotiations started in 2000. Commitments already exist in some countries' schedules, covering the three main areas in this sector: access to and use of port facilities; auxiliary services; and ocean transport.


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Current commitments and exemptions

For consolidated information on countries’ commitments and exemptions on maritime transport services go to the services database. If you are seeking the commitments of a specific WTO member, go to “Jump to a specific sector for a given Member”, select maritime transport services from the sector dropdown list, select the Member of interest and click “go”. To see a table showing which Members have made commitments in maritime transport services choose “See which Members have made commitments in a specific sector”, select Maritime transport services and click “go”.


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Current negotiations 

The principles of the trade in maritime transport services are contained, as for all services, in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). The specific regime for maritime transport services in the negotiations is defined by decision S/L/24.

Currently, maritime transport services, like all services, are included in the new services negotiations, which began in January 2000.

In November 2005, WTO members collectively identified their sectoral and modal objectives for negotiations on maritime transport.

Following the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference Declaration of December 2005, two separate plurilateral requests were prepared and addressed to targeted members.

These requests recommend the use of the so-called “maritime model schedule”. They call notably for the elimination of cargo reservations, of restrictions on foreign equity participation and on the right to establish a commercial presence both for international freight transport and for maritime auxiliary services. They also call for additional commitments on access to/use of port services and multimodal transport services as well as for the elimination of most-favoured nation (MFN) exemptions.


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Official documents and background studies 

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  • Secretariat background paper on maritime transport services (Document code S/* and keyword “Maritime Transport Services and Background Note”)  > search   > help

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Links to other international organizations that deal with maritime transport:

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

International Maritime Organization

Link to selected reports or studies of interest to trade in maritime transport:

UNCTAD Maritime Review

Key facts from the International Chamber of Shipping /International Shipping Federation